5 Best American SUVs and Crossovers of 2012

SUV on Beach
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Once upon a time, reliable American automotive products dominated the domestic landscape. The oddball foreign car or exotic automobile might show up in the local parking lot, but for the most part, we all drove Detroit Iron. Some folks believe that the United States would be better off today if more Americans bought and drove American cars. In this age of globalization, however, it's difficult to determine what an American car even is anymore. But one thing is certain, the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler— have been making great SUVs for quite a while now. Here is a look back at the five best SUVs and crossovers that rolled off the assembly lines for 2012.

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Cadillac SRX

2012 Cadillac SRX. Photo © Aaron Gold

When Steve Kline, development engineer for the Cadillac SRX, told Car and Driver magazine in 2011 that, “If we’d told you back in 2009 that the SRX would move from number nine in the segment to number two behind the Lexus RX, you probably would have laughed.” No one was laughing now. Bringing Cadillac's version of American luxury to a mid-sized crossover had been a challenge up to that point, but Cadillac got it right in 2012. With a base price of $35,185, it featured an automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, a 3.6-liter direct injection V6 engine, and 308 hp with 265 lb-ft of torque.

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Chevrolet Suburban 1500

2012 Chevrolet Suburban. Photo © General Motors

The Chevrolet Suburban, synonymous with "family car," has always been the best way to move a group of people—and all their stuff—from point A to point B and beyond. The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban did it with extra comfort, style, and efficiency. An automatic transmission with either rear- or four-wheel drive gave it the ability to handle a variety of road and weather conditions, while a 5.3-liter V8 engine, 320 hp, and 355 lb-ft of torque added some hustle. All of which made the 2012 Chevy Suburban a pricy proposition, coming in at $42,220 without any of the bells and whistles.

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Ford Explorer

2012 Ford Explorer. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Ford completely revamped the Explorer for the 2011 model year, rethinking the traditional body-on-frame design as a unibody, and moving from rugged SUV to sleek urban crossover vehicle, with great results. An automatic transmission front- or all-wheel drive was standard at a base price of $28,879. Buyers could choose from two engine types: a 3.5-liter V6 (290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque) or a 2.0-liter I-4 EcoBoost (240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque).

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Jeep Patriot

2012 Jeep Patriot. Photo © Jason Fogelson

If the 2012 Jeep Patriot looks familiar, that's because it was designed that way, hailing back to the popular Jeep Cherokee design of the late 1990s. This particular Patriot hit a sweet spot of capability, style, and bargain pricing ($15,995), delivering the best bang for the buck of any American SUV. Those who like a stick were happy to see it came with a five-speed manual transmission, although a CVT with AutoStick transmission was available for those who preferred to let the vehicle do the shifting. Front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter in-line 4-cylinder engine with 141 hp and 158 lb-ft of torque completed the package.

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Jeep Wrangler

2012 Jeep Wrangler. Photo © Jason Fogelson

Many SUV and off-road enthusiasts believe that the Jeep Wrangler is quite simply the best off-road vehicle available from any major auto manufacturer anywhere on the planet. With the change to the Pentastar V6 engine for 2012, Wrangler's on-road performance had finally reached the point where it was acceptable as a daily driver as well. Coming in at $22,045, it featured a six-speed manual transmission, four-wheel drive, a 3.6-liter V6 engine, and 285 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque.