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Autobytel Fast Five: Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012

Defining SUV and Luxury in the Quest for the Most Affordable Luxury SUVs of 2012

Christian Wardlaw
by Christian Wardlaw
September 17, 2012
4 min. Reading Time

There are two questions that must be answered before compiling a list of affordable luxury SUVs for 2012. First, one must define what constitutes a sport/utility vehicle. Second, one must define what constitutes a luxury vehicle.

The answers are not as simple as you might assume, dear reader. The advent of the crossover SUV has definitely blurred the lines with regard to the definition of a sport/utility vehicle, so for the purposes of this list of the best affordable luxury SUVs of 2012, we’ll require standard or available all- or four-wheel drive combined with greater cargo capacity than a comparably-sized car offers and greater off-road capability resulting from higher ground clearance or improved approach and departure angles.

With that settled, let’s talk about luxury. Leather seats, modern technology, and excellent customer service at the dealership are no longer the sole province of luxury brands. Confusing the matter is the issue of underlying engineering and powertrains that are shared between mainstream and luxury brands.

For example, is a Jeep Grand Cherokee one of the most affordable luxury SUVs of 2012? It rides on a modified version of a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class platform, and in top trim levels approaches $60,000 as a starting price. But the base model costs just $27,195. Because the base Grand Cherokee lacks luxury features commonly associated with upscale models, we’re going to take a pass and stick with established premium brands for this list of the best affordable luxury sport/utility vehicles of 2012.

And now, without further delay, we list the five finalists in descending order of price to name the most affordable luxury SUV of 2012.

Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012: Land Rover LR2

With a starting price of $35,700 (not including an $850 destination charge), the oft-overlooked 2012 Land Rover LR2 is one of the most affordable luxury SUVs of 2012. The standard equipment list includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, a premium sound system, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. A navigation system is optional on the base LR2, along with metallic paint, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats, a heated windshield, and heated washer jets.

A 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine is standard in the 2012 Land Rover LR2, making 230 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission delivers the power to all four of the LR2’s wheels, and this SUV features standard Terrain Response technology, which calibrates the powertrain to specific types of off-road surfaces.

In addition to the base model, Land Rover offers the 2012 LR2 in HSE and HSE LUX trim levels with added equipment.


Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012: Audi Q5

Thanks to a base price of $35,600 (not including the $875 destination charge), the 2012 Audi Q5 2.0T lands on our list of the best affordable luxury SUVs of 2012. That price includes a 211-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and Quattro all-wheel drive.

The Q5 2.0T also includes Premium trim: leather seats with 12-way power adjustment in front, wood interior accents, triple-zone automatic climate control, a premium sound system, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Options for this base version of the 2012 Audi A5 include metallic paint, xenon headlights with LED running lights, upgraded wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats, aluminum cabin trim, a panoramic sunroof, and more.

Audi also provides a number of upgrades from the base Q5 2.0T Premium. Luxury SUV buyers can choose the Premium Plus version of the 2.0T model, or upgrade to the V6-powered Q5 3.2 Premium Plus or Q5 3.2 Prestige variants.


Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012: Volvo XC60

Starting at $33,300 (not including the $875 destination charge), the 2012 Volvo XC60 3.2 is one of two Volvos on our list of the most affordable luxury SUVs for 2012. The XC60 3.2 offers a 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional on this model.

The XC60 3.2 comes standard with cloth seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and music streaming, and a stereo featuring HD Radio, satellite radio, and an USB port with an iPod connection. The XC60 rides on 17-inch aluminum wheels, and is equipped with Volvo’s City Safety pedestrian detection technology. Doesn’t sound very luxurious, does it?

To obtain features such as leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, bigger wheels, and dark tinted rear privacy glass, XC60 3.2 buyers need to upgrade to the Premier trim level. There are also Premier Plus and Platinum models, as well as turbocharged variants called the T6 and T6 R-Design.


Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012: Volvo XC70

Take one defunct Volvo V70 station wagon, jack it up on a raised suspension, add black body cladding and assorted SUV styling cues, and you’ve got the 2012 Volvo XC70 3.2, which starts at $32,950 with front-wheel drive (not including the $875 destination charge).

The XC70 3.2 is outfitted just like the XC60 3.2, with standard cloth seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, and a stereo featuring satellite radio, HD radio, and a USB port with iPod control. The XC70 3.2 rides on a simple set of 16-inch wheels, and despite its standard front-wheel drive, this Volvo crossover SUV includes front and rear skid plates. All-wheel drive is optional.

Speaking of options, buyers can upgrade the XC70 with Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum trim levels that includes features such as dark tinted rear glass, leather seats, a power sunroof, a power tailgate, premium sound, a navigation system, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and more. Additional options include metallic paint and 18-inch aluminum wheels.

The XC70 can also be upgraded with a turbocharged engine in the T6 AWD model, which replaces the standard 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine.


Affordable Luxury SUVs for 2012: Acura RDX

If you ask us, there’s a good reason the 2012 Acura RDX is the most affordable luxury sport/utility vehicle of 2012 at $32,895 (not including the $885 destination charge). It’s visually unappealing.

However, if you can get past the exterior styling, you’ll find an entertaining little luxury crossover SUV that’s based on the Honda CR-V. A turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder delivers 240 horsepower to the front wheels, and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) is optional.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather seats, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and a USB port. The only option, aside from SH-AWD, is a Technology Package with a premium sound system, a reversing camera, and a navigation system.

If you want to grab a 2012 Acura RDX, you’d better hurry because a redesigned 2013 model is already on sale. To be perfectly honest, though, once that 2013 RDX hit dealer lots, the leftover 2012s started gathering dust. If you find one, you ought to be able to get a fantastic deal on it, making it the bestaffordable luxury SUV for 2012 – by a long shot.



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