10 best SUVs to buy now

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.


(2 Pages) | Read all