Yonkers, NY - The new Volkswagen Tiguan and redesigned Nissan Murano achieved "Very Good" overall scores-and outpointed some of their competitors-in Consumer Reports' tests of compact and mid-sized, two-row sport-utility vehicles for the September issue.
The Tiguan and Murano were part of a group of six vehicles including the Infiniti EX, Land Rover LR2, Volkswagen Touareg 2, and Jeep Grand Cherokee that were tested. Prices-as-tested for the vehicles ranged from $35,479 for the Tiguan to $43,350 for the Touareg.
The Tiguan outpointed the EX and LR2 and now ranks in third place among the compact sporty SUVs that have been tested by Consumer Reports, behind the top-rated Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. The EX achieved a "Very Good" overall score and ranks midpack among that group of SUVs. The LR2 earned a "Good" overall score and ranks last among the nine compact sporty SUVs that CR has rated.
Among the three two-row SUVs tested, the Murano ranked best, with a "Very Good" score; it ranks in third behind the Lexus RX 400h Hybrid and its non-hybrid twin, the Lexus RX 350. The Touareg also scored "Very Good" overall and is ranked just behind the Murano. The Grand Cherokee achieved a "Good" score and is ranked last among the eight two-row SUVs that CR has rated.
While sales of truck-based SUVs are declining, smaller and car-based sport utilities are continuing to sell well. These smaller vehicles are often good alternatives to the larger models. They have better fuel economy and still deliver the practicality, power, and amenities that consumers expect.
Full tests and ratings of the SUV group appear in the September issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale August 5. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.
The issue also contains an "Auto Test Extra" report on the pleasant and versatile Volvo XC70 wagon.
The Infiniti EX is the only vehicle among the six SUVs in this test group that is Recommended by Consumer Reports. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Auto Reliability Survey of its more than seven million print and web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
CR doesn't have reliability data yet on the Tiguan, LR2 and Murano. The Grand Cherokee and Touareg cannot be recommended because of poor reliability.
Volkswagen's first small SUV, the Tiguan, is luxurious, well finished and impressively quiet. It straddles the line between the small SUV and upscale compact SUV classes. Seating is roomy and comfortable, but the cargo area is modest. Handling is agile, and the smooth engine provides good acceleration. The Tiguan SEL ($35,479 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Performance is smooth and responsive with very good acceleration and excellent shifting. The Tiguan got only 20 mpg overall on premium fuel in CR's own fuel economy tests. Braking is very good overall. Rear seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold for cargo. The front passenger seat in the SEL trim line also folds.
Based on the highly-rated G35 sedan, Infiniti's EX emphasizes sport over utility. It isn't defined by traditional SUV attributes like off-roading or cargo handling. Rather, the wagon-like EX has spirited acceleration and agility with some cargo flexibility. Despite the hatchback design, the cargo area is small and the rich interior is snug. The EX Journey ($39,425 MSRP as tested) is powered by a refined 297-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers strong performance. But this all-wheel-drive EX is thirsty, getting just 18 mpg overall on premium fuel. Braking is very good overall. The small cargo area is expanded by folding the rear 60/40 seatbacks.
The compact LR2 has the quirkiness and character that appeal to fans of the brand, and it is more pleasant for everyday driving than larger Land Rovers. The LR2 is very capable off-road and offers great visibility and easy maneuverability. The LR2 SE ($36,450 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 230-hp, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine that provides adequate performance. But CR obtained just 18 mpg in its tests on premium fuel. The six-speed transmission is smooth and responsive. Brakes on the LR2 are very good.
In one run of CR's emergency handling tests, the LR2 momentarily lifted two wheels several inches off the ground at its handling limits which is why CR rated it "Poor" for emergency handling. Consumer Reports subsequently notified Land Rover, who states that this was caused by the LR2 hitting a small traffic cone used to delineate the course. While hitting a cone is a common occurrence in this test, very rarely has CR seen vehicles tip up. This incident happened despite the presence of standard electronic stability control, which is programmed to prevent a possible rollover.
The redesigned Nissan Murano is greatly improved in comfort, interior quality, and refinement. When comparably equipped, the Murano is a reasonable alternative to a Lexus RX 350 for about $7,000 less. While it has lost some of its sportiness, it gained a quieter, more comfortable ride. The Murano SL ($36,330 MSRP as tested) is powered by a refined 265-hp, 3.5-liter V6 matched with a continuously variable transmission that is smooth and responsive with very good acceleration. Expect 19 mpg overall, based on CR's tests. The brakes are very good, too.
When CR's engineers first tested a Touareg in 2003, they were impressed by its off-road ability, but its weight took a toll on performance and fuel economy. A recent freshening helped with power, but fuel economy remains terrible-just 15 mpg overall in Consumer Reports' tests. The Touareg remains a capable off-roader, with some other virtues including a comfortable and quiet cabin with excellent fit and finish. The Touareg 2 V6 ($43,350 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 280-hp, 3.6-liter six-cylinder that provides sufficient performance. The six-speed automatic transmission is very good. Braking is not impressive.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was freshened for 2008, and now an updated V8 engine makes it more powerful and a bit less thirsty. But its fuel economy is still not so great-just 15 mpg overall. It also has a better driving position and a more settled ride. While it's a competent off-roader and a good tow vehicle for its class, the rear seat isn't roomy and fit and finish still need improvement. The Grand Cherokee Laredo ($36,930 MSRP as tested) is propelled by a 305-hp, 4.7-liter eight-cylinder engine that provides ample performance. Its five-speed automatic shifts smoothly. Braking is also very good overall.
With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.