Best midsized and large SUVs
Best midsized and large SUVs
SUVs are like the Swiss army knives of the automotive world. They provide plenty of room for passengers and gear, a comfortable interior that’s often loaded with amenities, reasponable trailer-towing capability, and the added security of all-wheel drive. All of that has made them the all-purpose vehicle of choice for many families. Midsized models are generally more fuel efficient, and easier to maneuver and fit in a garage than large SUVs. Some three-row models can carry up to seven or eight passengers.
Drawbacks: Fuel economy is often their Achilles' heel, with V6 models averaging 17 to 19 mpg overall, although a few can break 20. Expect about 14 to 16 mpg overall from most large SUVs, though you might get 20 mpg on the highway. And though many offer third-row seats, they're often small, tight, and best suited for kids.
Roomy, stylish, and well-equipped for the price, the Santa Fe delivers the kind of value and functionality that families are looking for. It has room for up to seven passengers in three rows of seats, and everyone will appreciate the quiet and comfortable ride and well-finished interior. The smooth and lively 3.3-liter V6 packs ample punch, and fuel economy is very good for the category. Handling is responsive and secure. And the standard backup camera provides extra safety and convenience. Don’t confuse this model with the Santa Fe Sport, a less-expensive two-row version that is less capable.
Price as tested: $36,290
Overall mpg: 20
The Traverse and Acadia are similar vehicles with different badges. And if you need the interior room of a large SUV but want the comfortable ride and more responsive handling of a car-based design, you can’t do better. (The upscale Buick Enclave is also similar.) The decision comes down to styling and available trim; the Acadia offers a tad more luxury. Both seat up to eight people in a spacious, quiet interior with a third-row seat that’s roomy enough for adults. The V6 is smooth and refined, and a recent freshening brought improvements to the ride and interior quality and connectivity.
Price as tested: $39,920/$41,315
Overall mpg: 16
For large families or group outings, three rows of seats are a must. The Traverse and Acadia are the crowd pleasers, with room for up to eight adults and their gear. The CX-9 offers lots of space in each row, and the Dodge Durango can carry up to seven in its roomy cabin. The boxy Ford Flex makes the most of its shape, with limolike room in the second row and a usable third row. The Honda Pilot can hold eight in a pinch, but that leaves little room for gear.
Hyundai Sante Fe Sport 23 mpg overall
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 27 mpg overall
Although less functional and not as polished as the Santa Fe, the two-row Sport uses a 190-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that provides a commendable 23 mpg overall. Inside you’ll find a similarly well-finished and comfortable cabin, with a lot of features for the money. A turbo four-cylinder is also available. If you can find a leftover 2013 Highlander Hybrid at the dealer, expect to get a stellar 27 mpg overall. We also expect that the new diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee will deliver decent fuel economy and readily available power.