After testing 20 SUVs in the mud, one gets an appreciation for how well cars perform on terrain suited more for pigs than people. If you want a car that has high-end amenities that can still hang in soupy mud, one of these five 2011 models might work for you.
0 City / 0 Hwy
This crossover, redesigned for 2011, is beautiful inside and out and handles like a sports sedan, while having enough room for the whole family. In muddy terrain, the xDrive all wheel drive system helps with traction, distributing power between the front and rear axles as conditions change and ensuring a smooth climb out of muddy ruts. With the press of a button, the Hill Descent Control holds the vehicle at a steady speed and prevents the wheels from locking if you?re on a slope. Also, the X3?s Dynamic Stability Control ensures stability when driving: there are no spinning wheels when you?re plodding through the mud. Extra perk: the starting price is below $40,000.
14 City / 20 Hwy
Creamy camel leather and a spacious interior may fool you into thinking this Infiniti is too pretty for the mud, but it?s not. The 8-passenger SUV has Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System, which uses sensors to help determine your path and keep the steering under control, so no fishtailing around in the mud. With second row captain?s chairs and easy maneuvering to the third row, passengers will enjoy the ride, regardless of the terrain.
12 City / 17 Hwy
The patented Terrain Response system allows the driver to turn a rotary knob in the center console to signal to the car what kind of road conditions you?re about to encounter, one of the five settings being mud. The Rover then adjusts driving aids (like traction control, dynamic stability and hill descent) to ensure that the driver and passengers have a seamless ride. Of course, all the bells and whistles (heated front and rear seats, dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel, console cooler) help the cause as well.
18 City / 24 Hwy
Wheels will not futilely turn in the mud thanks to the R-class?s Electronic Stability Program and Electronic Traction System, which are designed to prevent slippage in wet or muddy conditions. The systems ensure that power is distributed among the wheels, so you can almost feel it gripping ever so gently to pull you out of mud. As far as interior goes, it?s the luxury expected from the brand, with a roomy rear, fold-down seats and a giant sunroof.
14 City / 21 Hwy
While it?s not particularly light and zippy on the road, the XC90 feels how you?d expect a Volvo to feel in the mud: heavy, as if it has a more solid, grounded feeling. In the mud, the sporty-looking SUV kicks in with the Instant Traction all-wheel-drive system, which distributes power to the wheels to grip and pull through the slop. Inside, the 7-passenger vehicle has all the safety and comfort features you?d expect in a Volvo (power seats with lumbar support, dual zone climate control, whiplash protection system).
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