Big, brash, rough and not always tough, they have, over the last four decades, become an institution in the Land of the Free with sales last year of 8.2-million units. Along with their pick-up siblings, the SUV has become the modern era staple of North America and like the drawn of the muscle car in the 1960s, the type of vehicle most Americans aspire to own no matter their size or if they can go off-road or not. In this spin-off from the America's most wanted SUVs in South Africa series, The Citizen Motoring looks at 12 SUVs from the...
Big, brash, rough and not always tough, they have, over the last four decades, become an institution in the Land of the Free with sales last year of 8.2-million units.

Along with their pick-up siblings, the SUV has become the modern era staple of North America and like the drawn of the muscle car in the 1960s, the type of vehicle most Americans aspire to own no matter their size or if they can go off-road or not.

In this spin-off from the America's most wanted SUVs in South Africa series, The Citizen Motoring looks at 12 SUVs from the USA's Big Three automakers; Ford, General Motors (GM) and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) that take luxury, excess and opulence to another level in a uniquely Americana way.

Chevrolet Tahoe

The smaller sibling of the iconic Suburban, the Tahoe has become an American institution in its own right since debuting in 1995 as a rebadged version of the equally mythic Blazer.

Morphing from a simple two-door SUV to a five-door that become the only available bodysyle after 1999, the Tahoe entered its fifth generation last year when GM revealed it alongside the twelfth generation Suburban in Detroit.

America's Pride: Big Three's SUV world – Part 1

Continuing to be based on a truck platform, in this case the all-new GMT T1XX used by the Silverado and GMC Sierra, the 5.3 m long Tahoe is offered in six trim levels; LS, LT, RST, the off-road focused Z71, mid-luxury Premier and ultra-luxurious High Country which, amongst others, comes as standard with a 15-inch Heads-Up Display, Magnetic Ride Suspension, 22-incha alloy wheels and embroidered seat upholstery.

Up front, three engines are offered; a 5.3-litre V8 that produces 265kW/519Nm, a 6.2-litre V8 reserved for the High Country that punches out 313kW/623Nm and, for the first time since the original, a turbodiesel in the shape of a 3.0-litre straight-six Duramax that delivers 206kW/624Nm. Standard across the range is a push-button operated ten-speed automatic gearbox with four-wheel-drive models keeping the low range transfer case.

Cadillac Escalade

It seems somewhat strange to know that the Escalade only came to prominence with the unveiling of the second generation model in 2001 as the short-lived first became widely panned for being nothing but a rebadged up-spec GMC Yukon, itself based on the Suburban, in a rushed attempt to rival the runaway success that was the Lincoln Navigator.

The rest, as they say, is history and today, the Escalade represents the ultimate in luxury GM SUV, which arguably reached its peak earlier this year with the unveiling of the fifth generation that rides on the same GMT T1XX platform as the Tahoe, Suburban, Silverado and Sierra.

America's Pride: Big Three's SUV world – Part 1

Aside from sharing a number of features with its bowtie siblings, the Escalade boasts a segment first curved dash made up of a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster, a 16.9-inch infotainment system and 7.2-inch touch panel that amounts to a 38-inch OLED display Cadillac claims has twice the pixel density of a 4K television. Standard on the top-spec Platinum model, the other trim levels being Luxury, Premium and Sport, is a 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference sound system.

Being more plush than its Chevrolet siblings, the Escalade only comes with two powertrain options; the aforementioned 313kW/623Nm 6.2-litre V8 and the 206kW/624Nm 3.0 Duramax straight-six, a first in its 22 year history. The ten-speed automatic 'box is also standard, but with a gear lever in place of the buttons. Like the Suburban, an extended wheelbase model is offered that measures close to 5.8 m in overall length.

Dodge Durango

Still the smallest of the USA's Big Three, the Dodge marque, like sister brand Chrysler, has experienced more than a few knocks in the various change of owners and names present parent FCA has gone through over the last few decades. It is however still a surprise to note that the Durango is the brand's only SUV and one of the oldest on sale in the States today.

In current third generation, the Durango, aside from a number of revisions, has been around since 2010 with its platform being shared with the equally dated current Jeep Grand Cherokee and therefore loosely derived from the previous generation Mercedes-Benz GLE, then still known as the M-Class.

America's Pride: Big Three's SUV world – Part 1

On course to receive yet another update this year with reports alleging a reveal sometime around October, the still aggressive looking Durango seats seven and comes in a choice of eight trim levels; SXT, SXT Plus, GT, GT Plus, Citadel, R/T, Platinum and the fire-breathing SRT whose normally aspirated 6.2-litre Hemi V8 pumps out 354kW/637Nm.

With an eight-speed automatic gearbox standard on all models, the rest of the Durango's engine line-up consists of the stalwart 3.6 Pentastar V6 that makes 221kW/353Nm and the equally long-serving 5.7-litre Hemi V8 that pumps out 268kW/529Nm.

Lincoln Navigator

Like arch rival Cadillac, Ford's upscale Lincoln division has been around the block a few times in terms of models, the only constant being the Navigator that has not experienced any interruptions since the original bowed in 1997.

Currently in its fourth generation, the Expedition underpinned Navigator, which bowed as a single-piece gullwing door concept in 2016, a year before its official unveiling, sports the brand's somewhat bulbous looking styling language, claimed to display "elegance before the doors even open".

America's Pride: Big Three's SUV world – Part 1

Made mostly out of aluminium like the F-150, which has allegedly resulted in a 90 kg weight drop over the old model, the Navigator boasts features such as a Revel Ultima sound system with 20-speakers, a customisable twelve-inch instrument cluster and individually controlled second row climate control with dual ten-inch rear screens optional.

Like its GM rivals, a long wheelbase L model is offered with only a single drivetrain option present, a twin-turbocharged 3.5 EcoBoost V6 outputting 335kW/678Nm connected to the GM co-developed ten-speed automatic gearbox. Three trim grades are specified; base, Reserve and Black Label with a low range gearbox still offered on four-wheel-drive models.

For more news your way, download The Citizen's app for iOS and Android.