Made In America SUVs: The Beauty Of Quality And The Beast Of Performance

Mid-size SUVs (Sport Utility vehicles) are popular in America, especially among families living in the suburbs. Outlined here are Whaayu’s recommendations for Made In America SUVs for you. You have a choice among 13 vehicle models, classified either as Whaayu Top-Choice or as Whaayu Good Choice. We have explained in our primary thesis why American-made products show exemplary quality and high level of engineering.

Whaayu Top Choice vehicles are assembled in the United States, with critical components – namely Engine and Transmission – also made in the USA.

The list of Whaayu Top Choice SUVs presented here is not in any particular order. Any of these vehicles will be a superb choice for you. If you are in the market for a new SUV, you can choose 2 or 3 of these models, learn in-depth about them (such as drive & handling, fuel consumption, seating, ride comfort, and options), then test drive them and decide for yourself which one makes the most sense. Please keep in mind that large-size, 4×4 vehicles such as Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia or GMC Yukon are not considered here. They will be covered separately.

Whaayu Top-Choice SUVs – Midsize (usually 7 seaters)

Buick Enclave
Ford Explorer
Acura MDX (All models except Hybrid)
GMC Acadia
Kia Sorento (L and LX models only)
Chevrolet Traverse
Honda Pilot

Tesla Model X

For each of these Made in America vehicles, our conviction is very high that you get excellent-quality and a well-engineered product.

More about specific vehicles on our Top-Choice list.

Buick Enclave:  This is one of the most beautiful SUVs, designed and built in the United States. Car & Driver had an in-depth review on the 2018 model. The highlights for Buick Enclave: Attractive design, spacious interior, many available features. GM has further refined the 3.6-liter Enclave engine with an additional torque (310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque). Impressively, high torque is achieved at lower rpms compared to older models (lower rpm better for engine life + smoother ride).

“The Buick’s active-noise-cancellation system, plentiful sound-absorbing materials, and an acoustic insulating windshield and front side windows contribute to its appreciably quiet driving environment.” Said Car & Driver. Unless you live in dry, sunny-around-the-year places, an all-wheel-drive is a preferred option.

Ford Explorer: Ford Explorer is one of the best-engineered 4-wheel drive vehicles made in America. In production since 1991, it has evolved to fifth-generation Explorer.

Car & Driver found that Explorer’s 3.5 liter V6 had best-in-class acceleration. “The twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, limited to the Sport and Platinum models, pushes 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels, thanks to a standard all-wheel-drive system. With no perceptible turbo lag and a plethora of power throughout the rev range, the twin-turbo V-6 is as smooth as it is quick,” said Car & Driver. It added, “The Explorer drives bigger than it is. Its well-damped ride prioritizes comfort over dynamic handling. That’s a blessing for those who regularly travel on rough roads or take long road trips.”

Acura MDX: Acura MDX is a sought-after SUV / Cross-over. “This popular three-row crossover SUV is versatile and has an appealing mix of safety and luxury-oriented features. The MDX is enjoyable to drive, too,” said Edmunds in its detailed review of this crossover made in America. Please note that, for the standard gasoline model (i.e. not hybrid), engine, transmission and the vehicle assembly operations are U.S. based. Last year, Acura MDX production was moved to an upgraded plant in Ohio from the previous facility in Alabama (For the MDX Sport Hybrid model, the transmission comes from overseas, and it is assigned Whaayu Good Choice rating).

Interestingly, Edmunds recommended standard MDX equipped with all-wheel drive rather than the Hybrid model ( due to superior performance at low speeds). We concur; it shows the prowess of manufacturing in the United States.

Chevrolet Traverse:  The all-new design Traverse is a beautifully engineered marvel. This is one of the roomiest mid-size SUVs with seating for 8. Car & Driver fondly called it “GM’s latest and greatest family bus.” Traverse has been highly rated by J.D. Power & Associates. It is built on a platform similar to its made in USA cousin Buick Enclave.

“Perhaps the best thing about this (Traverse’s transmission) nine-speed automatic is how unnoticeable it is. Shifts feel, as the bard of Honolulu, Bruno Mars, put it, “smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.” There’s never the sense of constant gear shuffling that we’ve noticed in many other nine-speeds,” said Motor Trend.

If you are looking for the space and comfort-ride of a minivan with the agility and acceleration of an SUV, Traverse deserves serious consideration.

GMC Acadia: For years, GMC Acadia has been a solid cross-over, but beginning last year, its dimensions shrank. It is one of the smaller mid-size crossovers made in America, and will compare favorably with compact SUVs.

“Most of the Acadia’s driving dynamics are perfectly adequate and should satisfy most crossover buyers … it’s simply a solid family vehicle,” said Car & driver. In our opinion, if you are a family of four or five plus occasional guests (or a dog!), you will be better off considering the Chevrolet Traverse or Buick Enclave over the GMC Acadia within GM family of vehicles.

Honda Pilot:  The next best thing from the Southeast (after College Football) may very well be the Honda Pilot crossovers, built in Alabama with components from Georgia.

“With a high seating position, kid-friendly interior, and vast cargo space, the Honda Pilot has what it takes to win over suburb-dwelling parents. The 3.5-liter V-6 is smooth, powerful, and relatively efficient,” said Car & Driver. Edmunds said about Pilot, “We recommend the EX-L model for its combination of practicality, comfort and features.” Of the two transmission variants, 6-speed and 9-speed, we recommend the 6-speed automatic transmission.

It is easier to integrate critical components (engine and transmission) into assembly when they are manufactured at nearby U.S. facilities. Honda produces transmissions for Pilot in Tallapoosa, Georgia, just 60 miles east of Lincoln, Alabama, where it assembles these vehicles and also manufactures V6 engines for them. (This same philosophy holds true for the GM vehicles recommended here, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, produced in Lancing, Michigan as well as for Ford Explorer built in Chicago.)

Kia Sorento (L and LX trims only): For this crossover, only the entry-level 4-cylinder L and LX models are considered and recommended. Assembly, engine and transmission for these models happens in Kia’s factory in Georgia. Rest of Sorrento model-trims are built overseas and thus do not meet our criteria.

U.S. News, in its review of Sorento LX model, highlighted pros: Spacious interior, User-friendly infotainment system and Above-average fuel economy from four-cylinder engines.

Tesla Model X:  This is the last but not the least from Whaayu’s Top Choice list for made in America SUVs. Tesla Model X is the most exciting SUV available on our planet. It is in a class by itself.

Have you ever dreamed of just opening the garage and pressing a couple of buttons on your iPhone, and surprise, your vehicle rolls out of the garage, ready for you to go? Tesla Model X is like no other SUV. It is an unfair comparison for other vehicles – this is an electric-powered speedster with features  and capabilities that are not seen in other luxury SUVs! The Model X is arguably among the safest vehicles, and for sure, it is the quickest. With 0 to 60 mph (miles per hour) in just 3 seconds, it will beat a new Ferrari or a strong-muscled Corvette.

Priced at $90,000 to $151,000 (U.S. dollars) depending on options, this vehicle, in our opinion, is the epitome of the level of engineering technology and innovations that are possible in America. One negative: There is about 6-month wait for Model X, but it is surely worth it.

For our international readers: Tesla Model X is available as both left-hand drive (Germany, China, U.S., Canada, Italy, etc.) and right-hand drive option (Japan, India, South Africa, Australia, U.K., etc.).

“Good-Choice” recommendation by Whaayu:

Unlike the Top-Choice SUVs, which are our highest-rated vehicles, this group of Good-Choice models have either the Engine or the  Transmission (but not both) manufactured outside United States, with the vehicle assembled in the U.S.

We do not recommend any vehicles that are not assembled in America. Also, any vehicles for which both engines and transmissions are made elsewhere, do not meet Whaayu criteria.

Whaayu Good-Choice vehicles

Dodge Durango (Assembled in Detroit, Michigan. Engine: non-U.S., Transmission: U.S.)
Nissan Pathfinder and Infinity QX60 (Assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. Engine: U.S., Transmission non-U.S.)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (Assembled in Detroit, Michigan. Engine: non-U.S., Transmission: U.S.)
Toyota Highlander (Assembled in Princeton, Indiana. Engine: U.S., Transmission: U.S. or Overseas. If your specific Highlander has transmission from U.S., you can consider it as Whaayu top-choice).
Acura MDX Hybrid (Assembled in East Liberty, Ohio. Engine: U.S., Transmission: Overseas)

If you do not see a particular brand or model of SUV here, it is likely that such a vehicle does not meet Whaayu criteria for made in America vehicles, described in preceding sections. You have a total of 13 model-choices available for mid-size SUVs that we believe are high-quality products built in the United States. These automobiles will perform very well for you.


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