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Heels On Wheels: 2010 Crossover Watch List

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2010 Lexus RX450h Hybrid Crossover

SEE ALSO: Crossover Specs, Prices, Comparisons and Reviews


By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The self-appointed Crossover Queen is back with 2010 recommendations! Now in our second year of suggesting which part-sport utility, part-car gives women the best bang for their buck, Heels on Wheels once again puts together an exciting list of CUVs with great style and high customer satisfaction.

Ten years ago, the Honda CRV barely made the last slot on best-selling SUV lists. By 2006, crossovers made up of more than 50% of the overall SUV market. Today, the Honda CRV dominates the number one SUV position. Crossovers deliver what a traditional utility vehicle can't always – car-like handling without compromising space, utility style and performance (and in many cases, delivering better gas mileage).

One trend we're noticing in 2010 is that style of some crossover vehicles are getting rather boxy. So we've included a few new square-shaped rides into our crossover list for the year, including the Scion xB and Ford Flex.

2010 Scion xB. The xB is the best of the boxy rides (and I test-drove all of them). More than a trend, the "urban" utility ride with a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter DOCH 4-cylinder engine has a strong resale value according to Kelley Blue Book. The Scion xB possesses great cargo room – an amazing 70 cubic feet (beats Cube, Element and Kia Soul). Base starts at $16,700, and a completely stocked xB can run you as high as $28,110. What makes the 2010 xB different than its former years is upgraded its audio options. The standard Pioneer stereo features iPod or iPhone connectivity, a programmable 16-character welcoming message and an RCA unit for two after-market subwoofers. The optional Alpine Premium adds a 4.3-inch color touch screen, one more RCA hookup and HD Radio technology to view all song titles.

2010 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited. The base Forester made my list last year, and this year I'm stepping it up by recommending the AWD turbocharged .5-liter Boxer with intercooler engine holding a fuel estimate of 21-mpg. The 2.5X Limited brings a better automatic climate control system, the All-Weather Package (heated mirrors and seats plus a wiper de-cier) and a 6-speaker stereo with 6-CD changer. The interior design inside any Forester feels roomy, mostly due to sculpted doors and dash. Between the panoramic sunroof and second-row reclining seats with an optional center cup holder that pulls down, your passengers will be happy. A fully loaded Forester with all-wheel drive costs $29,694. When you add up all the features, options, and performance pluses, this becomes our best deal on the list.

2010 Ford Flex. Now in its second year of unique existence, the Flex offers space and urban style without being a traditional or bulky SUV. With three trims available, my mid-level SEL test drive came with SYNC hands-free communication, Ford's MyKey, AWD and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control for $41,555. Now with EcoBoost technology, the 3.5-liter V6 Duratec engine bumps from 262-hp to 365-hp through the turbo technology using direct gasoline injection – so V8 power with V6 gas consumption at an average of 18-mpg. The Flex has one of the most highly functional third-rows on the market, with easy in-and-out access and room for two car seats. The vista moonroof and skylights, composed of one moonroof and the three additional non-opening skylights located on both sides of the second row and one in the third, is a must-have option.

2010 Lexus RX 350. More than one million of this Lexus model has been sold worldwide. This luxury 5-passenger ride has a long list of improvements in the performance area for 2010, including an all-new six-speed transmission to increased horsepower for the 275 horsepower 3.5-liter VVT-i V6 engine. An RX 350 has great standards, such a 10-way power driver and passenger seats with lumbar, Homelink, an LCD screen for audio and ventilation settings and a 9-speaker sound system – with a few extra packages, total cost comes to $49,825. But amidst all the divine and highly-tech interior features, the real reason for moms to get this ride is for the remote open-and-close liftgate and cargo area side handles that fold the second row flat in a flash. Don’t forget that this model comes as a Hybrid also (RX450H), with all the goodies and the great fun and do-goodies of a 28 MPG crossover.

2010 Lincoln MKT. Biggest surprise in the 3-row crossover lineup. This 7-passenger techie dream ride with the V6 EcoBoost engine is available in all-wheel drive will set you back $49,995 but delivers a long list of goodies: Reverse Camera System; fixed glass roof; adaptive high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps; genuine wood interior trim; 12-way driver and passenger heated leather bucket seats with lumbar; touch-screen audio and climate controls; and Lincoln SYNC or voice-activated entertainment system. The available Navigation Package includes a 14-speaker THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Audio System, George Lucas style. It has excellent handling characteristics, which I fully put to test on the Santa Cruz Mountains. The optional Active Park Assist takes this idea of self-parking a car one step farther than Toyota/Lexus by actually allowing the MKT to select an appropriately sized parking space before it steers you in hands-free.

2010 Katrina Ramser