Top-Rated 2012 SUVs: Performance & Design

Each year, J.D. Power and Associates conducts an Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL) to ask vehicle owners about the performance and design aspects of their new cars, trucks and SUVs. Through this industry-standard survey, tens of thousands of people tell J.D. Power about how their vehicle performs, how comfortable it is, how well the interior is designed and functions, and how they feel about the vehicle's design. This 2012 SUV buyer's guide is based on the overall APEAL rating, listing in alphabetical order those SUV models that are top-rated for performance and design in the 2012 APEAL Study.


2012 Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition is a full-size, 8-passenger SUV sold in regular- and extended-length wheelbases, the latter model referred to as the Expedition EL. Buyers select from XL, XLT, Limited, and King Ranch trim levels, all equipped with a 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 engine and a choice between rear-wheel (2WD) and 4-wheel drive (4WD).

One unique aspect of the Expedition is that the SUV has an independent rear suspension. This more compact suspension design adds third-row passenger room and allows the third-row seat to be folded into the cargo floor like a minivan whereas some competing models require removal and storage of the third-row seat to maximize cargo space.

In 2012, Ford added new side mirrors to the Expedition, designed to help the driver better see in the SUV's blind spots. Additionally, heated second-row seats are available when the XLT Premium package is ordered, and front park-assist sensors complement rear park-assist sensors on the Limited and King Ranch trim levels.

According to Ford, the Expedition can tow 9,200 pounds, while the Expedition EL is rated to pull 8,900 pounds of weight. With all rear seats folded, the Expedition holds 108.3 cubic feet of cargo, while the Expedition EL swallows 130.8 cubic feet.

2012 Infiniti QX56

Based upon a model called the Nissan Patrol, which is sold in other parts of the world, the Infiniti QX56 is a large luxury SUV that seats 8 passengers in 3 rows of seats. It is sold in a single level of specification with numerous option packages that add luxury and technology features to the SUV, and changes for 2012 amounted to minor changes to the contents of these various option packages.

All QX56 models are equipped with a 400-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8 engine, which drives the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Shift Control, Downshift Rev Matching, manual mode, snow mode, and a towing mode. Infiniti's All-Mode 4WD system is optional. The QX56 is rated to tow 8,500 pounds and can carry up to 95.1 cubic feet of cargo with both rows of seats folded down.

2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is a new compact 5-passenger SUV that shares its platform with the Land Rover LR2. Smaller, lighter, and more fuel-efficient than any previous Land Rover model, the new Range Rover Evoque is offered in 3-door or 5-door body styles in Pure, Dynamic, and Prestige trim levels.

A 240-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard, delivering power to all four wheels through a permanent 4WD system. A Terrain Response control system is standard, along with hill-start assist, hill-descent control, and Gradient Release Control systems.

With its rear seat folded, the Range Rover Evoque 5-door can carry up to 51 cubic feet of cargo. The 3-door model is limited to 47.6 cubic feet of cargo.

2012 Porsche Cayenne

Porsche's 5-passenger SUV is designed to provide maximum performance both on and off the pavement. The Cayenne is offered with a choice between a V-6 engine (Cayenne), V-8 engine (Cayenne S), turbocharged V-8 engine (Cayenne Turbo), and a gas-electric hybrid powertrain (Cayenne S Hybrid) that Porsche says will power the SUV up to 40 mph on electricity alone. All versions have Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

The Cayenne S, Cayenne S Hybrid, and Cayenne Turbo each add standard equipment over the base Cayenne model. In addition, Porsche offers numerous ways to personalize a Cayenne through paint color, trim, interior materials, and extra-cost equipment. Maximum towing capacity is 7,716 pounds with the automatic transmission, and the Cayenne can hold up to 62.9 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat folded down.

For 2012, new colors and minor cosmetic modifications, including new SportDesign details, debut. The Cayenne Turbo model is offered with an optional Turbo Power Kit that boosts engine output to 540 horsepower and 553 lb.-ft. of torque, and when equipped with the optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes, the front brake discs are larger on this model.