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Comparison: 2007 Ford Edge vs. 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2006 Nissan Murano vs. 2007 Toyota Highlander

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Car-Crossed Luggers: Meet Motordom's metrosexuals
By Frank Markus
Photography by Brian Vance

Car-basedtrucks are the market darlings of our day. The propaganda suggests if you're willing to sacrifice a smidgen of the towing and off-road capability the Marlboro-Manly pickup-based trucks offer, you can enjoy similar space and styling in a vehicle boasting the fuel efficiency and comfort of a large sedan.They're billed as the metrosexual Renaissance men of the motoring scene. Of course, the hype is often hooey. Tall, blocky styling creates truckish aero drag, however slippery the shape, and ladling on the comfort and convenience gear buyers demand bloats the curb weights of midsize crossovers to two tons and up, at which point any hope of carlike fuel economy hinges on exotic hybrid or diesel powertrain technology. Nevertheless, the market is buying the message and flocking in droves from "real" SUVs to these emasculated ones. Traditional sport/utility sales declined 12 percent in 2006, while crossovers climbed nine percent to win the sales race by about a quarter-million units.

By what yardsticks should midsize crossovers be measured? Clearly trailblazing beyond snowy gravel roads and towing anything larger than a pop-up camper are off the list. A high seating position with good visibility seems important, as does having the space and flexibility to carry a family and/or bulky items, otherwise a dynamically superior car would be preferable. Comfort and efficiency (or at least the appearance thereof) must be priorities, or today's worthy crop of redesigned midsize 'utes wouldn't be languishing on dealer lots for 70-plus days on average. Finally, style and cachet have elbowed their way into a high spot on the gotta-have list, or the other criteria would lead any rational buyer to choose a minivan.

RESULTS:
1st Place: Nissan Murano
The high-rise fashion statement that best preserves its donor car's ample dynamic capabilities.

2nd Place: Hyundai Santa Fe
A tall-wagon best-buy and superb all-arounder--especially with the third-row seat option.

3rd Place: Toyota Highlander
Easiest of the four to rationalize buying on purely practical grounds, but a snore to behold or drive.

4th Place: Ford Edge
Great looks and most of the right gear to get the job done, but a bit overweight and underdeveloped.

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