2015 GMC Terrain Denali V6 AWD Iridium Metallic Front Quarter Left ・ Photo by Christian Wardlaw
Other than a reasonable price, one thing all of the 10 most affordable SUVs have in common is they are more like cars than the trucks from which sport utility vehicles were originally derived. Roaring along since the late 1990’s, the SUV boom, while admittedly less energetic than in the past, still has a great deal of steam left in it. One of the factors keeping the segment alive is the exceptional civility of the current crop. While this also means few vehicles in this category have what it takes to handle serious off-road duty, most people seldom require them to, so it’s pretty much a non-issue. These days, the vast majority of the 10 most affordable luxury SUVs are all about comfort and convenience features. And, here they are.
Looking for something in a more manageable size? Barely bigger than MINI’s Countryman, the Buick Encore could go a long way toward fulfilling that mission, and yet it’s still packed with luxury features. Further, you’ll find a remarkably quiet interior environment, thanks to the application of Buick’s Quiet Tuning features. Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four generating 138 horsepower and 148 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive complete the powertrain. Standard features include heated exterior rearview mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a seven-inch touchscreen, WiFi, and smartphone apps integration. Options include heated front seats upholstered in leather, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. Pricing starts at $24,065.
Freshly redesigned for the 2015 model year, Nissan’s Murano is an affordable luxury SUV capable of allowing you to have your luxury features without the ostentation of a premium-badged automobile. Sumptuously outfitted, the Murano’s interior offers the first application of white ash simulated wood trim we can recall seeing in any automobile and it is absolutely gorgeous. Further, the Murano’s front seats are remarkably comfortable. Smooth in operation and a responsive handler, Murano has a lot to offer. Power is supplied by a 260-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with 240 ft-lbs of torque. Depending upon your choice of drivetrain, a continuously variable transmission routes power to the front, or all four wheels. Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, a seven-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, and smartphone app integration. Pricing starts at $29,560.
The only go anywhere sport utility vehicle on this list, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is as equally at home slogging through mud as it is rolling up to the country club. If you think you know Jeeps and haven’t been in a Grand Cherokee since 2010, you’re in for a huge surprise. Plush, with just the right touch of tough, the Grand Cherokee’s passenger accommodations are the equal of any of model on this list of the 10 most affordable luxury SUVs. Power comes from a choice of four engines (three V6 and two V8), ranging in output from 290 up to 475 horsepower – one of which is a turbodiesel V6 with 420 ft-lbs of torque. While all use eight-speed transmissions and four-wheel drive, you can get rear-drive with the standard V6. Pricing starts at $29,995.
Photo by Jeep
If you love to drive, BMW’s X1 handles crisply and pulls strongly off the line. It’s also extremely smooth in operation, quiet on the highway, and offers handsome styling with a nicely turned out interior. Power comes from a choice of two engines; the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four makes 240 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six makes 300 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs of torque (although it feels much stronger). An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines. With the four you can choose between rear-drive and all-wheel drive. The six is straight up all-wheel drive. Standard features include automatic headlights and windshield wipers, cruise control, automatic climate control, and Bluetooth. Options include keyless entry and ignition, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and a rearview camera. Pricing starts at $31,200.
As much four-door hatchback as it is compact crossover SUV, the all-new for 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is seen by some as posing as a compact crossover to avoid the stigma of being considered a premium hatchback offering. To our eye, it’d be better looking were it set at a more reasonable ride height, (as indeed the AMG version of the GLA is), but your results may vary. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four with 208 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. A seven-speed automated manual transmission routes power to your choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Standard features include a power rear liftgate, foglights, automatic wipers and headlights, cruise control, Bluetooth, smartphone integration, power adjustable front seats, a 5.8-inch monitor, and the MBZ COMAND interface for secondary functions. Pricing starts at $31,300.
Audi’s Q3 has the “cute ute” thing going on in a big way. Further, it delivers a quiet and comfortable ride, a refined interior, and an abundance of standard luxury features. All-new for the 2015 model year, the Audi Q3 is one of the newest models among the 10 most affordable luxury SUVs. High style, with presence significantly overshadowing its size, the Audi Q3 is a lovely vehicle in which to turn up. Power comes from a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four with 207 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission feeds either the front wheels or all four – if you order quattro all-wheel drive. Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated power adjustable front seats, automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Bluetooth. Pricing starts at $32,500.
Photo by Audi
An all-new, never seen before entry for the 2015 model year, the Lexus NX 200t is the venerable luxury brand’s first attempt at a compact crossover. As you might well expect from the frequently overachieving marque, it’s really nice. The handsome exterior contains a beautifully done interior treatment, and it’s remarkably spacious for its size. Smooth and quiet, as you’d expect from a luxury-oriented Lexus model, the NX rolls into the marketplace a first-tier contender. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 235 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-drive are standard, all-wheel drive is optional. Other standard features include automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, driver selectable vehicle dynamics, dual-zone automatic climate control, a seven-inch monitor, and Siri-based voice controls. Pricing starts at $34,480.
OK, so which Infiniti model is this? The QX50 is the smaller of the marque’s two crossovers; the model formerly known as EX37. An absolute delight to drive, QX50 is wonderfully agile with strong acceleration and a comfortable ride. Long story short, the Infiniti QX50 is a highly luxurious driver focused compact crossover SUV. The interior treatment; a striking amalgamation of leather, wood, and chrome, also hosts a copiously abundant array of luxury features. The QX50’s propulsion comes from a 3.7-liter V6 with 325 horsepower and 267 ft-lbs of torque. A seven-speed automatic is standard, as is rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional. Additional standard features include automatic headlights, power adjustable front seats, power folding heated exterior rearview mirrors, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, cruise control, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Pricing starts at $35,000.
Comfort, smoothness, and an abundance of contemporary tech features are among the highlights of Acura’s entry-level luxury crossover sport utility vehicle. It’s also a strong performer with excellent handling. The interior design is clear-cut, with everything laid out pretty much where you’d expect to find it–even with all of the features the Acura product-planning team saw fit to include. Power comes from a 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with 251 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to either the front- or all four wheels if the all-wheel drive option is selected. Standard features include heated exterior rearview mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth, a sunroof, automatic headlights, and a rearview camera. Options include navigation, voice controls, and a power liftgate. Pricing starts at $35,270.
Often overlooked by shoppers in the luxury category, GMC’s Denali models are but a half a step short of Cadillac in terms of luxuriousness. Because of this, the Terrain Denali could be thought of as a low-key, tastefully understated entry on this list of the 10 most affordable luxury SUVs. Power comes from either a 2.4-liter inline four with 182-horsepower and 172 ft-lbs of torque; or a 301-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with 272 ft-lbs of torque. Front-drive and a six-speed automatic are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Other standard features of the GMC Terrain Denali include rear cross traffic alert, heated power adjustable seats, leather upholstery, navigation, lane departure warning, automatic climate control, a power liftgate, WiFi, Bluetooth, a touchscreen interface, parking sensor arrays, voice activation, remote start, and a sunroof, Pricing starts at $35,490.
Photo by Christian Wardlaw