10 best SUVs to buy now

TheStreet.com


By all accounts, the sport utility vehicle's career should be dying as slow and painful a death as that of any other late-'90s/early 2000 celebrity.

Why won't it go away? For the same reason yesterday's teen idols and pop superstars are today's game show hosts and talent show judges: Because they're still familiar enough to most Americans to be a lesser-evil fallback to something new and scary.

Less than a million SUVs were sold in the U.S. in the first nine months of the year, according to Motor Intelligence. That's nearly a third the number of the 2.8 million midsize cars sold in the same span and less than half of the sales of the 2.2 million crossover vehicles that took the bulkier SUV's place.

Times have gotten so tough for the SUV that once-shunned subcompacts are more than doubling its sales. The only category the SUV is outselling? Luxury cars, and only by a 200,000-vehicle margin.

Still, SUV sales numbers are up 7.7% since last year. That's the slowest growth of any vehicle class within the past year, but still surprising for a category that's fallen so low since its heyday. It may have a little something to do with dealers letting them go at nearly 20% of their price to clear the bulky behemoths off their lots.

We checked in with automobile pricing site TrueCar and found 10 SUVs that can be had for discounts of 10% or more. Crank up some Nelly and play a DVD of your favorite reality show about spoiled heiresses on the screens in your headrest. It's time to get less than 25 miles per gallon:

10. 2012 Lincoln Navigator
MSRP: $58,770
Market price: $52,238
Discount: 11%

More so than most of the other SUVs on this list, the Navigator -- along with GM's Cadillac Escalade -- was a dark, tinted symbol of turn-of-the-century excess jacked up on giant rims.

As with much of the SUV market, the Navigator's free-spending run rolled downhill in the late 2000s. The nearly 44,000 Navigators sold when the vehicle was introduced in 1998 dwindled to 24,000 just as the financial crisis began in 2007. By last year, Ford could manage to part with only 8,018 of the beasts. The Navigator's still laden with fun luxury features such as rearview camera, parking assist, HD radio, Microsoft's SYNC entertainment and communications system and SiriusXM satellite radio and navigation, but its V8 engine and combined 16.8 miles per gallon fell out of favor with folks who didn't think big financing deals and poor fuel economy were particularly attractive status symbols.


9. 2012 Nissan Murano S
MSRP: $30,785
Market price: $27,036
Discount: 12.2%

The Murano isn't such a bad little SUV, but sandwiched between the Xterra and the Pathfinder it just feels like a space-filling form factor without much personality. Buyers feel that way, too, as sales in the midsize SUV sector grew only 11.6% in the first nine months of the year -- beating out only the 5.7% growth of luxury SUV sales.

That changed a bit last year, when Nissan began offering a convertible version, but the Murano's still a bit oversized for an SUV with no third-row seat. The S, meanwhile, lacks the power liftgate, power fold-up seats and other options available in the LE. While its 20.9 combined miles per gallon aren't terrible, the Murano has a tough time hanging in with more efficient offerings from Toyota, Honda and even Kia.


8. 2012 Ford Edge SEL
MSRP: $31,905
Market price: $27,783
Discount: 12.9%

OK, it's a midsize crossover, but it hammers away at midsize SUV competition with a weapon those truck-based titans just don't have.

The Edge's combined 25 miles per gallon are more than enough to separate it from the pack. It's the second-lowest mileage on this list and, in the SEL package, comes with dual-zone climate controls, backup sensors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and secondary audio controls.

It's also one of the success stories behind crossovers' 9.1% sales growth this year. After watching sales fall from 130,000 in 2007 to fewer than 89,000 during the financial crisis in 2009, the Edge's sales climbed back to 121,700 just last year.


7. 2012 Ford Escape XLS
MSRP: $22,265
Market price: $19.301
Discount: 13.3%

Why does a small crossover that sold nearly 255,000 vehicles last year and nearly doubled sales within the last decade need a discount? Because it's old.

Ford brought in a redesigned Escape for 2013 with a 1.6-liter engine with mileage similar to the 2012's hybrid version and the MyFord Touch entertainment and communications system. Drivers who've dealt with that wonky touchscreen interface may wish for a return to the 2012 XLS' optional Ford SYNC system and might consider sacrificing somewhat improved mileage for the 2012's already impressive combined 25.5 mpg.



6. 2012 Jeep Liberty Sport
MSRP: $24,320
Market price: $20.980
Discount: 13.7%

Why give you Liberty or give you death when you can have both?

If you're buying a Jeep Liberty these days, you're buying a dead car rolling. Chrysler's new Italian masters at Fiat took one look at the boxy, bulky, V6-driven Liberty, noticed that Jeep hadn't turned it into a crossover like the Compass or Patriot and decided to cut its losses. The last Liberty rolled out of the factory in Toledo, Ohio, in August as a 2013, but bears a distinct resemblance to the 18.8 mpg model produced in 2012.

All the interior room is still there, dashboard distractions including Bluetooth and navigation remain, but the sales just never surfaced. After peaking at more than 171,000 sales in 2002, demand for the Liberty dropped to 66,900 in 2008 and never reached that ceiling again. Ciao, Liberty.


5. 2012 Nissan Pathfinder V6 SV
MSRP: $33,465
Market price: $28.522
Discount: 14.8%

This SUV should come pre-loaded with either a collection of grunge albums or an MP3 of Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days," as it's still clearly living in the past.

The Pathfinder is still being built to compete with the Chevy Blazer and Ford Bronco. It's still hopped up on trucks, it's still getting a paltry 18 miles per gallon and it still thinks a 4.0-liter V6 is something anyone wants in a family vehicle. So why is this museum piece finally getting such a drastic discount? Because next year it joins the rest of the modern automotive world by switching to a car-platform crossover, trimming to a 3.5-liter V6 and cutting fuel economy to a combined 21 miles per gallon. The Pathfinder is finally evolving, but its Stone Age 2012 throwback is still looking for a few good knuckledraggers to drive its old bones off the lot.


4. 2012 Lincoln MKX
MSRP: $40,420
Market price: $34,295
Discount: 15.2%

Even Lincoln isn't averse to taking the crossover route. It replaced the Navigator's bulky midsize SUV cousin the Aviator with this vehicle back in 2006 and has racked up more than 20,000 sales each year since.

It may be a luxury crossover, but it's built on the Ford Edge platform and still gets 22.3 combined miles per gallon. That roughly $7,000 premium on the Edge gets drivers a 3.5-liter V6 engine, 20-inch chrome wheels, a voice-activated DVD navigation system, a reverse sensor system, Sirius satellite radio, a THX II-Certified audio system, heated and cooled front seats, and driver and passenger power lumbar supports. It's a lot easier to ride in style when you do so at a discount.


3. 2012 BMW X5
MSRP: $59,045
Market price: $50,079
Discount: 15.2%

The crossover of choice for America's swankier ZIP codes takes the kids to lacrosse and prep hockey practice in a ride that includes a panoramic moonroof with two-piece glass panel, automatic front climate control with separate left and right temperature settings, automatic tailgate with opening and closing feature, front and rear parking distance sensors, rearview camera, a heads-up display on the windshield, HD radio, Sirius-XM satellite radio, rear entertainment center and a navigation system with traffic alerts.

That third row of rear seating and engines that range from the 269-horsepower, 26-miles-per-gallon diesel V8 of the xDrive35d to the 4.4-liter, 400-horsepower V8 of the xDrive50i keep the X5's prep-school parents plenty happy. At a time when luxury SUV sales have been slumping, X5 sales jumped from 35,000 just before the recession in 2007 to more than 40,000 last year.


2. 2012 Ford Expedition XL
MSRP: $38,595
Market price: $32,408
Discount: 16%

How old-school is the Ford Expedition? It was brought in to replace the O.J. Simpson-tainted Ford Bronco in 1997. It's still based off a Ford F-150 platform and comes only with a V8 engine. Its combined mileage is a binge-drinking 16.8 mpg.

Like its luxury sister vehicle the Lincoln Navigator, the Expedition is a dinosaur. Despite including I-Love-The-2000s features suchas 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels and a dual head-restraint DVD system in its latest models and being offered in a Funkmaster Flex edition in 2008, the Expedition's sales have cratered from 233,000 in 1999 to just 40,500 last year. That was an improvement from the 32,000 sold after the market tanked in 2009, but still a sign of potential Expedition extinction.


1. 2012 Nissan Armada SV
MSRP: $40,865
Market price: $34,187
Discount: 16%

First off, it's tough to invest much faith in an full-size, 5.6-liter V8-engine-laden, combined 15.7-mpg SUV when even the fate of the vehicle it's based on -- the Nissan Titan -- is in question. A deal to make the vehicle in tandem with the Dodge Ram fell through and though Nissan says the Titan will survive, the downward spiral of similar oversized vehicles calls the Armada's survival into question.

Secondly, why would you name your biggest, most intimidating SUV the Armada. Didn't history's most famous armada lose to a smaller British fleet in spectacular fashion? Maybe the options should include a while flag in case drivers find themselves in a parking lot surrounded by Mini Coopers.
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