A funny thing has happened over the course of the past decade - all of a sudden, it seems like the top-of-the-line models for a wide range of different automakers are not high end sedans or coupes, but rather full-size SUVs and crossovers. Sure, there are still a few companies out there building aspirational sports cars, and of course there are brands that don’t offer SUVs at all (or only sell sport-utility vehicles), but by and large, high capacity haulers command the stiffest MSRP when sampling the new vehicle market.
Let's take a look at the highest-priced offerings from 10 different car companies to get a feel for how each brand presents their top tier models.
01. 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid has served as the Cadillac flagship ever since the departure of the slow-selling Cadillac XLR convertible. The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is not only extremely practical thanks to its three passenger seating and copious amounts of cargo space, but it also offers the luxury accoutrements and brash styling the fans of the full-size SUV have come to expect from the model. The battery-assisted electric motor that comes with the Hybrid adds efficiency (roughly 25 percent better around-town fuel mileage) without subtracting too much power, providing 379 horses for drivers to play with from stoplight to stoplight.
02. 2012 Honda Odyssey
Leave it to Honda to price a minivan as the most expensive vehicle in their entire lineup. The down-to-Earth nature of the Honda brand is on perfect display with the positioning of the 2012 Honda Odyssey minivan as the apex of the automaker's offerings. The Honda Odyssey minivan is a people hauler extraordinaire, and in recognition of the fact that today's parents - and their offspring - are demanding more in the way of creature comforts and entertainment options, the Honda Odyssey can be loaded up with DVD screens, a navigation system, and cushy leather seating to help those road trip miles pass by that much smoother.
03. 2012 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid
The 2012 Volkswagen Touareg is almost a stealth luxury crossover, a full-size SUV that provides much of the same feature set as other, more recognizable vehicles built by brands like BMW and Audi. The Volkswagen Touareg might not offer more than two rows of seating, but it does have an ace in the hole - the Hybrid model, a rarity amongst German sport-utility vehicles and a trim level that pushes the Touareg's price tag above $60,000. Also unusual is the decision to outfit the Touareg Hybrid with a supercharged engine in order to squeeze out 380 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque - nothing to sneeze at for a gasoline / electric model that gets 20-mpg city and 24-mpg highway.
04. 2012 Ford Expedition EL
The 2012 Ford Expedition EL is the stretched-chassis version of the company's full-size SUV. The fact that the King Ranch edition of the Expedition EL occupies the top dog spot for Ford is no real surprise, given that it is based on the same platform as its ultra-popular F-150 pickup truck, a vehicle that sells in droves when loaded up with as much luxury gear as possible. The Expedition EL King Ranch is a veritable living room on wheels, if your living room happens to pack a 310 horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8, offers optional four-wheel drive, and features the ability to tow just under 10,000 lbs.
05. 2012 Buick Enclave
The 2012 Buick Enclave feels perfectly positioned as the domestic premium automaker's standard bearer. The full-size Buick Enclave crossover displays the elegant styling that Buick has adopted in recent years, and its posh interior trappings certainly don't detract from the real world utility of the eight-passenger vehicle. Copious cargo space and a wide rear hatch make the Enclave the perfect co-conspirator in a wide range of activities, while its 288 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and available all-wheel drive ensure effortless acceleration in all manner of weather conditions. Think of the Buick Enclave as the modern-day Roadmaster wagon and you'll have some idea of what company's designers were aiming for when they first put pen to paper for this crossover.
06. 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 breaks the mold of this list somewhat when discussing flagship vehicles. Yes, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a sport-utility vehicle, but it's also a high performance machine that is based on one of the most successful SUV platforms ever to hit the market. The SRT8 cops almost the entire suite of luxury features found on the Grand Cherokee Overland trim, but it adds Brembo brakes, 20-inch rims, an adaptive suspension system, and a 6.4-liter V-8 engine that churns out 470 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission and standard four-wheel drive, that's enough thrust to propel the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 to 60-mph in just 5.1 seconds.
07. 2012 Jaguar XKR-S
Finally - Jaguar steps up to the plate with a more traditional, two-door grand touring sports coupe as its most expensive model. The 2012 Jaguar XKR-S takes the already impressive bones of the Jaguar XKR and adds more than a few high performance touches, including a racing-look body kit, sport seats, a stiff suspension system and a barking-loud exhaust. Under the hood, the XKR-S ups the ante on the standard XKR's supercharged mill by way of turning up the boost on the 5.0-liter V-8 to push out 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic sends all of that output to the vehicle's rear wheels.
08. 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
The 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser seems an almost out-of-step entry in the Toyota lineup as it is priced at nearly $40,000 more in base trim than its next closest sibling. The Toyota Land Cruiser has, over the years, morphed from desert-crossing warrior to ultra-premium people hauler. Despite this fact, it hasn't lost any of its off-road capability, boasting a full-time four-wheel drive system, a respectable suspension setup, and a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that offers up 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Not many people are looking to pay close to $80,000 for a Toyota, but those who do are certainly not disappointed by what the Land Cruiser has to offer.
09. 2013 Nissan GT-R
Leave it to Nissan to de-emphasize SUVs and instead present a rolling technology showcase as its premier model. The 2013 Nissan GT-R - also known as 'Godzilla' due to its high performance dominance - offers coupe buyers one of the most advanced sports cars available. The GT-R features a twin-turbo, 3.8-liter V-6 engine that delivers 545 horsepower and 463 lb-ft of torque, and thanks to an incredible all-wheel drive system the vehicle can leap to 60-mph from a standing start in just a tick over three seconds. Very few other automobiles can lay claim to this type of capacity for supernatural acceleration.
10. 2012 Lexus LFA
The 2012 Lexus LFA is another high end Japanese coupe, but with a price tag that is more than three times that of the Nissan GT-R it's clear that this is one automobile that is playing in a league populated exclusively by exotics. Extremely rare and not all that easy to buy even when you can find one, the Lexus LFA is all hard angles and horsepower, a vehicle that strikes a seductive pose even when standing still. The Lexus LFA is motivated by a ten-cylinder engine derived from Toyota's Formula One racing program, and it provides 552 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque for its six-speed automated manual transmission manage with appreciable dexterity.
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