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5 best luxury SUVs

Mercedes offerings get top ratings in Consumer Reports field test - but none earn a recommendation.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, staff writer


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NEW YORK ( -- Mercedes-Benz's GL-class and R-class SUVs are the top-ranked choices in a Consumer Reports rating of five top luxury SUVs.

The Mercedes SUVs were compared to the Volvo XC90, the Audi Q7, and the 2007 Cadillac Escalade.

The ratings are in the November issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

All five SUVs in the test earned "Very Good" overall scores. None earned a recommendation, though, because of concerns over reliability.

Photos: Consumer Reports' top lux SUVs

Consumer Reports rates "predicted reliability" based on survey data. The Mercedes R-class and Volvo XC90 have "poor predicted reliability," according to the magazine. The GL-class, Q7 and the redesigned Escalade were all too new for the magazine to gather sufficient data on reliability.

Consumer Reports, published by the non-profit Consumer's Union, purchases all the vehicles it tests for the magazine. The vehicles are bought anonymously from retail auto dealers.

Cars are tested on public roads as well as at the magazine's test track facility in Connecticut. Cars are put through a variety of tests, including high-speed maneuvering, braking and cornering. SUVs are also taken through an off-road course, including a steep rock hill.

"Both the GL- and R-Class vehicles offer exceptional combinations of luxury, utility and performance - at a premium price," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center.

The GL is Mercedes' largest SUV and it was the most expensive vehicle tested, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $67,829 as tested. It is powered by a 335-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 engine and has a seven-speed automatic transmission. In Consumer Reports' testing it delivered 15 miles per gallon overall using premium fuel.

The GL's transmission sometimes hesitated and bumped when downshifting, Consumer Reports said. Even though the transmission doesn't have a "Low" mode for off-road use, the GL easily climbed the rock hill at Consumer Reports' testing facility.

The GL's interior was quiet and roomy, Consumer Reports said.

The R500, a long and low SUV, looks like a cross between an SUV and a minivan. Its ride quality was very much like a luxury sedan, Consumer Reports said.

The Volvo XC90 finished in the middle of the pack. The magazine complimented its safety features and interior flexibility, but faulted it for poor steering feel and reliability. Volvo is a division of Ford Motor Co.

The Audi Q7, which shares some of its underlying engineering with parent company Volkswagen's Touareg and the Porsche Cayman, is called "powerful and luxurious" but is faulted for poor handling in emergency maneuvers.

General Motors' Cadillac Escalade received the lowest overall score of the five. It was faulted for long braking distances and an ungainly driving feel. Still, the magazine called the Escalade "luxurious, comfortable, quick and quiet."

Consumer Reports highest-rated 3-row SUV, overall, is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid which cost $39,995 as tested, followed by the Honda Pilot, which cost $34,835. The Mercedes GL-class and R-class ranked third and fourth overall, respectively.

Photos: Consumer Reports' top lux SUVs

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