This is one of my favorite categories and is also something that everyone can appreciate. Of course my background and passion has to do with performance variants (Thanks Tiff, Jeremy, Chris for ruining me) but I will make sure all my recommendations actually make sense for the masses.
All of these choices will be amazing all around SUV’s suitable for year round driving (even in harsh Canadian winters), solid reliability, great resale values and most importantly make you feel special going to and from work every single day. When someone tells me they have a price range in the 30000’s for an all around SUV, they are in for a treat.
I am using 35000$ for my price range for the simple fact that most new SUV’s (entry level of course…..CRV, RAV4, Escape, Tuscon, CX-5, etc etc) fall within this price range once you add a few options to the base model. Many people will look at these vehicles and immediately think that they are way too harsh on gas consumption, they are over the top in looks/luxury, they are way beyond my means, I can never afford that, maintenance will be too expensive, and so on. Then again nobody thinks about how pathetic their vehicles will depreciate once they drive it off the lot, they don;t have the ability to calculate that the depreciation curve destroys any saving you may get on fuel economy and maintenance (which by the way most of these vehicles I suggest will be CPO and many well below 35000$).
Value and getting the most out of your dollar “safely” is the most important thing here, not just raw performance or being show off, that is why I will explain to the best pf my ability why I chose these vehicles. The proof is in the car forums for reliability as well, real owners with real experience and recommendations. As a result due to reliability concerns for many finicky issues I can’t recommend many BMW, Mercedes or Audi models unless they are under 100% CPO warranty coverage for at least a couple years just so you don’t go nuts. Although the X5, X3, AMG Mercs, GL, ML class, Q7 are great SUV’s and very appealing, I would be in constant concern of a random CEL or electrical issue occurring. If there were far less cases of issues concerning the these big german SUV’s, almost all of them would be on my list, however this is not the case and I am concerned about your money going as far as possible.
This is all I’m saying, you work hard for your money, you want to feel special as everyone does. So why not simply drive these vehicles I am suggesting and do your homework instead of simply giving yourself a million excuses of why you shouldn’t treat yourself with the exact same dollar amount you were going to spend anyway??? Seems rhetorical to me.
Here is a list of the cars I will be getting into detail with:
2009-2010 Infiniti FX50
390 HP @ 6500 RPM
369 TQ @ 4400 RPM
1/4 mile 13.6 @ 104
14/20 MPG (US figures)
MSRP New 61725 (CDN)
Price Used Today: 28000-40000$
This truly is the most sports car-esque of all the choices I have listed, yes even more so than the 1st GEN Cayenne models. Not only does it accelerate well, but it has a beautiful growl emanating from the 5.0L V-8 putting power through an advanced AWD system and 7-speed automatic tranny. Having owned an FX45 for 3 years (high mileage of 100000+) first hand experience with the GEN 1 supported just how bullet proof these vehicles really are. The GEN 2’s are no different. The FX50 is also very well appointed, several standard features, great sound system and ergonomics, fit and finish is top notch and the overall cabin feel is very luxurious to say the least. The only real issue with these vehicles are it’s appearance and it’s fuel economy. It really isn’t the most beautiful thing on the road to most people, but I happen to really like it’s over the top curves and accentuated hood and facial features. It’s very modelesque, models usually aren’t the most beautiful people but there is something unique about them that make them so very attractive. If it were my money, and my main priorities were to have the most car like sports car drive and feel along with year round usage with very little desire for cargo space, this is my number one choice. Also most 2009 models are still retaining over half of their value suggesting strong resale. If you don’t want the blitzkrieg performance of the FX50, look for the FX35 and you can save up to 10000$. This could be because the new QX70 replacing (lol replacement) is not even a replacement. It’s simply a name change…..good job Infinti!
2004-2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
450 HP @ 6000 RPM
457 TQ @ 2250 RPM
1/4 mile 13.5 @ 104
13/18 MPG (US figures)
MSRP New 80,295 127,145
Used Prices: 18000-34000
Think about this for a second, you can own a car that costed on average with options into the mid 100000 $ range and let me tell you when you drive this car it sure as hell feels like it. Many people view the Cayenne as not being a true Porsche, and I would have to agree completely. However those guys at Porsche hit this SUV right on the mark and created one of the most agile yachts on wheels at the time. Also the best part about the Cayenne is how much money it made the company, to allow it to put as much R+D into their sports car development.
Back to the Cayenne itself, these are a steal of a deal now, with their flagship turbo models, in great condition selling under 25000$ !! I know you may be thinking, why on earth are these so cheap there has got to be something seriously wrong with this. This may be true for some models however the used market for Cayenne’s and their issues (far and few) is very well documented. The guys at excellence magazine, and owners from 6speedonline and rennlist can tell you everything to look out for. Look for lower mileage turbo models, as new as possible (2005-2006 models are better) and that have a well documented history of maintenance. I would make sure the Cayenne has the coolant pipe fix (1000-2000$ job) to immediately prevent one of the biggest issues with the vehicle and it’s a permanent fix. Since there are hundreds of cayennes for sale, make sure you are patient and remember you have so many negotiating tools and make sure you get the best model for the best price. Trust me, when you find the right model, you will thank me. If you need more advice on where to find this exact information shoot me an email.
Be extra careful with base cayennes as they are well known to experience more issues, cayenne S would be a good buy but for not much more money, the turbo is the true bargain of the bunch.
2007-2011 Acura MDX
300 HP @ 6000 RPM
275 TQ @ 5000 RPM
1/4 mile 15.7 @ 90 MPH
MSRP New 54,075 – 63,675 (2007-2009 well under 35000$)
Used Prices 17000-30000$
Let’s sum up the Second Gen Acura MDX in one sentence. It’s the best all around SUV money can buy between 17000-35000$ period in every single respect, most importantly maximizing your dollar with a vehicle that does it all. The most important qualities of the MDX is reliability, safety, utility, luxury, performance, fit and finish……wait a minute….that’s pretty much everything. It also has a “soul” aspect, primarily within the engine bay, where the 3.7 Honda V-6 has one of the most beautiful engine notes and loves to be revved and revved. In 2010 the MDX had a mid model refresh, primarily with small tweaks to the motor and an extra gear to increase fuel efficiency, but I would rather put my money on an older 2007 model which has proven to be extremely reliable regardless of mileage.
So plain and simple, if you want a jack of all trades and master at reliability and value, this is where I would put my money end of story.
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V-8
360 @ 5150 RPM
390 @ 4250 RPM
1/4 mile 15.8 @ 91 MPH
MSRP New 52,090
Used Prices 30000-35000$
Finally Chrysler! For the love of God you have realized most of your products were extremely sub par and that major changes needed to be made ASAP to quality. The Jeep Grand Cherokee to me is one of the greatest transformations the automotive world has ever seen, it is officially north America’s Range Rover, or maybe even better in some respects.
To truly understand what I mean, sit inside a 2010 Grand Cherokee and then do the same thing with a new GEN model. The difference is astonishing and finally a true contender for any competitor in it’s class. The Biggest difference is interior quality in every single respect, it’s finally a cabin that truly cares about it’s passengers, with soft touch leathers and plastics, great NAV system and easy to operate controls. The HEMI motor has always been a gem in the muscle world and continues work it’s magic in the new Chrysler model line up. Off roading has always been the Grand Cherokees strong point and it has evolved into an even more capable off road animal. Get into the Overland model for all the bells and whistles, they have just began to fall within the 35000$ range!
2010-2011 Lexus RX 350
275 HP @ 6200 RPM
257 @ 4700 RPM
1/4 mile 15.3 @ 92 MPH
MSRP New 46,900
Used Prices: 27000-40000
The RX350 for me is the least exciting of the group in every respect. Sure it’s numbers suggest otherwise with strong acceleration and performance figures, but the car has a complete lack of soul. That being said this is one of the best choices for overall reliability, resale value, gas mileage and commuting from A – B with in complete serenity. Also I think the overall styling of the RX is very appealing inside and out, and the quality of interior finishes is among the best at the price point. Overall one of the best buys today and for the near future for under 35000$
Here is the overall summary.
If you have a family, want something that simply does everything right and at the same time offering some driving thrills, go for the MDX. Prices are as low as 20000 for clean 2007 models, even the Elite package equipped models with every option possible can be found in the low to mid 20’s.
If you are a single man/woman who wants the most car like SUV that is still capable for year round driving, my nod go’s to the FX50. Like Caranddriver magazine said, the FX50 has performance numbers than make entry level 911’s, Boxster’s threatened. Forget about reliability ratings, this is one of it’s best qualities. Out of the bunch, this is where I would put my personal money.
The offroad in us all, who uses their SUV as a year round workhorse, capable of mastering even the worst terrains, the Grand Cherokee is the choice.
Cayenne Turbo is arguably the best choice of the bunch assuming you don’t care at all about fuel efficiency and looking like your a “cock” at times. For some reason the Cayenne just has that aura about it, where people think you are a millionaire and your driving a vehicle that you used 3 years worth of salary for. Crazy how the perception of things is so so off and how people are completely clueless and uneducated in how far their dollar can go. If you get low mileage models, as new as possible (go for 2006) along with coolant pipe fix, this is the best value buy. The reason I would not buy it is because of the image, but if you want to stick out, the Cayenne turbo is where it’s at.
Honestly the RX is the best choice if you want the easiest and most luxurious commuting tool possible. It has no soul, it has very little to offer in terms of excitement but then again most people want this type of ride. There is a great market for this vehicle, especially an older demographic.
Any questions please email me or comment and I would love to hear what you have to say!
Live to Drive.