For those who want the flexibility and utility of an SUV, but want to maintain a comfortable ride and decent fuel economy, a crossover SUV may be the perfect solution.

    Crossovers generally take car platforms and engines and put SUV bodies on them. The only thing they can’t do like an SUV is serious off-roading, which very few SUV owners do anyway.

    Crossover SUVs fall across the size/economy/luxury spectrum. In the mid-sized luxury category, the Acura MDX is a long-standing leader in the crossover market.

    The interior is luxurious, with wood, leather and all the latest electronic goodies. Tri-zone automatic climate control ensures passenger comfort throughout the cabin, including the fold-down third row seat that is best occupied by younger folks with shorter legs. Leather trimmed, moderately bolstered front seats are heated, and cooled seats are an option. The rear seat is roomy and comes with its own air vents and temperature controls. With the third row seats folded, there’s a pretty good amount of cargo space behind the second row seats, which fold down to create a cavernous cargo area. Nice little storage bins abound.

    The tailgate opens and closes at the touch of a button. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes electronically. On nice days the moonroof can tilt up for some fresh air or open to allow maximum sunshine. A technology package adds navigation and a rear view camera. The MDX is motivated by a 3.7 liter, 300 horsepower V-6 that sends plenty of power to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sequential sport shift option. Super handling all-wheel-drive not only transfers power front and rear, but also side to side to ensure that maximum traction is maintained, while also rotating the outside rear wheel a little faster in a turn to push the vehicle through the turn, giving unparalleled handling prowess. Gas mileage is 16 city, 21 highway. Variable assist rack and pinion steering and a nice firm suspension make the MDX a nice vehicle to drive. The braking is also good.

        According to Allen Massengill, general sales manager at Frank Leta Acura, “The MDX trim levels are very simple; they all come with most of the comfort features people expect these days like an electric tailgate and back-up camera, and options such as navigation. It’s a very complete car for the money.”

    Base price for the MDX is around $43,500. 

    For those in the market for a smaller crossover SUV, the stylish Nissan Rogue offers many amenities and a lot of utility in a relatively small, good looking package. A rising belt line, sloping rear and aggressive front end make the Rogue stand out in the small SUV class. Front seats are comfortable but not very bolstered. The rear seat is large for a smaller SUV and offers plenty of room, especially leg room, though two people would be a lot more comfortable than three. A nice large cargo area can be expanded by folding down the easy-to-fold rear seat, though the cargo height is restricted somewhat by the slope of the tailgate. A back-up camera is a welcome safety and convenience feature. Temperature control is automatic but not dual.  A good sounding stereo system has convenient controls on the steering wheel. Available options include a sunroof, a heated power driver’s seat, all-wheel-drive and navigation. The available navigation screen is a touch screen, which I find most convenient and easy to use. For a smaller SUV, it has a nice substantial feel to it.

    Acceleration is smooth from the 2.5 liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine, which pumps out 170 horses through a continuously variable transmission that sends power to the front wheels, or all four wheels if you get the all-wheel-drive option. Brakes are good, as is handling, with a suspension that’s a nice trade-off between performance and comfort. Fuel mileage is 22 city, 26 highway with all-wheel-drive.

    Jerry Fisher, sales manager at Suntrup Nissan says, “The 2011 Rogue provides seamless power from its 2.5 liter 170 horsepower engine and CVT transmission. Also, the Rogue has exciting new technology incorporated, such as bluetooth, iPod connectivity and available navigation.”

    The Rogue starts around $25,000. With leather, sunroof, automatic temperature control, heated seats and navigation, expect to spend approximately $30,000. LN

Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate, see">