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2009 large, luxury SUVs tested

Toyota Land Cruiser, Porsche Cayenne, Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Hummer H2 tested by Consumer Reports.

Nov. 3, 2008 -- The Toyota Land Cruiser earned a 'Very Good' overall rating in tests of four luxury SUVs priced above $45,000 by Consumer Reports. The Land Cruiser ranks seventh overall in the category.

Redesigned for 2008, the Land Cruiser drew praise from CR's engineers and editors for its comfortable ride, overall level of refinement, and excellent off-road capabilities. (Note that this Toyota model is not sold in Canadian dealerships.)

The Land Cruiser was tested against the Porsche Cayenne S, Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE, and Hummer H2. The Cayenne S and Range Rover Sport both achieved 'Good' overall scores. The H2 trailed in last place in the category, with a 'Fair' score. Prices in the United States ranged from US$61,900 for the Land Rover to US$71,985 for the Porsche.

But in CR's testing, competitive models costing thousands less have earned higher overall scores.

The best luxury SUV in Consumer Reports tests is the considerably less expensive Lexus RX 400h hybrid, which slightly outpointed the non-hybrid RX 350. Other top-scoring luxury SUVs are the Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz GL450, Volvo XC90, and Audi Q7, in that order.

None of the vehicles in this test group are recommended by the publication.

The reliability of the Range Rover Sport and Cayenne is much worse than average, and Consumer Reports doesn't have sufficient reliability data yet on the redesigned Land Cruiser. The H2 scored too low in CR's testing. CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

2009 Toyota Land Cruiser.Toyota Land Cruiser (Not sold in Canada.)
The Land Cruiser is quick, plush and refined. It has a composed, comfortable ride and quiet cabin. It's a capable off-roader, but it's fuel-thirsty and lacks agility. The third-row is cramped, especially given the SUVs rather large size. The Land Cruiser (US$67,707 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price in the U.S. as tested) is powered by a 381-hp, 5.7-litre V8 that provides effortless acceleration. It's mated to a seamless, six-speed automatic transmission. CR averaged 14 mpg overall in its own fuel economy tests. Braking is very good on dry pavement, but stops were longer in the wet. Padded, well-fitted trim and wood accepts give the interior a high-quality ambience. Drivers will find plenty of room all around. The front seats are quite comfortable, and the second row can seat three adults with ease. The third row is cramped, low, uncomfortable, and difficult to reach.

2009 Porsche Cayenne.Porsche Cayenne
Despite its heft, the Cayenne is quick and sporty. It can tow a heavy trailer and has some off-road capability. Even for those who can afford it, the Cayenne is not to everyone's taste. The ride is stiff, and controls are complicated. The Cayenne (US$71,985 MSRP as tested) is propelled by a smooth, muscular, 385-hp, 4.8-litre V8 that delivers excellent response and power. CR averaged 15 mpg overall in its tests on premium fuel. Like the Land Cruiser, braking on the Cayenne is very good on dry pavement, but longer in the wet. The interior has lots of padded trim, nicely stitched leather seats, and thick carpets. But that opulence is spoiled by oddly grained dash trim, wide panel gaps, and flimsy cupholders. The driver's space is roomy, front seats are very comfortable and supportive - if you fit them - but narrow and confining if you do not. The rear seats are firm but well shaped and easily accommodate three adults.

2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport.Land Rover Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover Sport offers plenty of interior opulence. Though designed primarily for on-road driving, the Sport remains a competent off-roader like other Land Rovers. But its hefty weight takes a toll on both acceleration and fuel economy, and its controls can be frustrating to use. The Range Rover Sport HSE (US$61,900 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 300-hp, 4.4-litre V8 mated to a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission. Together, they deliver just adequate acceleration and 14 mpg overall on premium fuel. Braking is very good overall. The Range Rover Sport's interior has a very tasteful, high-end trim. Drivers get a high, commanding view of the road ahead. The front seats are well shaped and comfortable but a bit narrow. The rear seats are roomy and comfortable for three adults.

2009 Hummer H2.General Motors Hummer H2
The Hummer gets awful fuel economy, handling is ungainly, the brakes are subpar, and a terrible view out makes it difficult to judge the vehicle's position within a traffic lane and parking. The short list of good points includes a decent ride and good towing and off-roading capability. The base Hummer (US$66,335 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 393-hp, 6.2-litre V8 engine that dishes out plenty of power. Fuel economy is the worst of the group by far, at 11 mpg overall with only 7 mpg in the city. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly but must downshift often just to maintain speed. Braking is only fair. Inside, CR found a mixture of some high-quality materials and cheap-looking panels and wide gaps around the centre console. Even average-sized drivers feel a bit cramped and closed in. The front seats are wide and fairly comfortable. The rear seats easily hold three abreast, and the cushions are fairly comfortable.

Full tests and ratings of the SUV group appear in the December 2008 issue of Consumer Reports. The reports are also available to subscribers of

Posted Nov. 3, 2008. (c)

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