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The Most Comfortable SUVs

The Most Comfortable SUVsThe Most Comfortable SUVs

Think about the amount of time you spend in your SUV: you go to work, shop, take your kids to their activities and go on family vacations. With so much of your life spent on the road, it’s important to find an SUV that’s comfortable for your family.

Is it big enough?

First, decide how many seats and how much cargo space you need. Most compact SUVs seat five people, but sometimes you can select an optional third row. Just bear in mind that on compact SUVs, third rows tend to cost more and are usually uncomfortable. For more space, check out mid-size and full-size SUVs, which fit anywhere from five to nine people and all their stuff. The Chevrolet Tahoe, a large SUV, seats nine and holds up to 108.9 cubic feet of cargo. In comparison, the Honda CR-V, a popular crossover, holds 35.7 cubic feet with all five seats in use.

Cargo space might be an odd thing to consider when we’re talking comfort, but ample rear storage will make everyone happier, especially on road trips. With enough cargo space, it’s easy to pack luggage and suitcases won’t block the driver’s rear view. Rear passengers will also be a lot more comfortable if duffel bags aren’t crammed under their feet and luggage doesn’t fall on them because gear is stacked too high. If abundant cargo space is important to you, look at large SUVs. The Chevrolet Suburban’s total cargo space is huge, and can hold 137.4 cubic feet of stuff. Just keep in mind that while most large SUVs have tons of cargo space overall, that amount decreases with passenger seats in use. In the Suburban, for example, cargo space decreases to 45.8 cubic feet with passengers in the third row.  

Is the driver comfortable?

Think about it: you may drive your car without passengers, but it’s not going anywhere without a driver.  Make sure the driver’s seat fits you. Check the controls. Can you adjust the temperature and other features without reaching too far? Check the steering wheel. Does it tilt and telescope, making it easier to find a comfortable driving position?

Are seats plush and adjustable? Imagine yourself driving in the SUV for a few hours. If your back starts to hurt after thirty minutes, cross that SUV off the list -- it won’t withstand the long haul. Also don’t forget to check your sight lines. Are there a lot of blind spots? Do you have a clear, commanding view of the road? If the SUV you choose has great visibility, you’ll feel more relaxed behind the wheel.

Interior features also aid driver comfort. Check for features like steering wheel-mounted controls, hands- free Bluetooth connectivity and conversation mirrors which are available in the Honda CR-V and Toyota Highlander. Conversation mirrors help you keep an eye on kids in the back. The less you have to fiddle with the radio and your phone and turn around to check the kids, the more at ease you’ll feel. Not all of these features are standard, but it may be worthwhile to add them.

Are the passengers comfortable?

When checking out the passenger seats, think about who is going to be back there the most. If you plan on routinely hauling older kids or adults, you’ll need more space. Pay attention to the SUV’s interior dimensions. Larger numbers mean more available space and more comfort, but you’ll still need to check out the seats. 

If you have young children, bring their car seats to the dealership so you can practice installing them. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) are required by law and do a better job of holding car seats in place than regular seatbelts. Next, decide if the SUV’s roof is high enough to make installing the car seat and buckling up children simple. If clearance is low, look for something taller. Once the kids are in their seats, see if they have enough leg space. Children swing their legs and that means they could kick the back of the front seats.

If your kids don’t need car seats, have them hop in the back, but don’t help them. If your kids have a hard time getting in and out, consider a SUV that’s closer to the ground. Finally, have your kids test out the third row. The littlest members of the family won’t have trouble climbing back there, but older kids might. If you routinely have adults or older kids in the third row, trading up to a bigger SUV may be worth it.

Is the Ride Comfortable?

An SUV may be comfortable when you sit in it, but performance impacts long-term comfort. During your test drive watch out for things like body roll, sensitivity to road bumps and excessive road and engine noise. If your passengers think the car is too bumpy and the kids are jostled, test another car.

Comfortable Three-Row Large SUVs: LATCH and Adjustable Seats



Adjustable Seats


Toyota Sequoia

Lower Anchor: all second row seats

Tethers: all second row seats; middle seat third row

Second row: sliding and reclining 40/20/40 split-fold design

Third Row: reclining split-fold 60/40 design


Ford Expedition

Lower Anchors: all rear outboard positions

Tethers: all rear outboard positions

Second row: 40/20/40 split seat with CenterSlide, a slide forward feature. Second row also reclines and folds flat.

Third row 60/40 split-fold-flat-to-floor bench seat in EL trim only


Comfortable Three-Row Midsize SUVs: LATCH



Adjustable Seating


Mazda CX-9

Two in second row

Second Row: 60/40 split fold-down seatback with tilt and slide

Third Row: 50/50 split fold-down seatback


Chevrolet Traverse

Two in second row

Smart Slide second row seats

Eight passenger: Second and third row 60/40 split flat-folding bench seats

Seven Passenger: second row flat-folding captain’s chairs and third row 60/40-split flat-folding bench seat


GMC Acadia

Two in second row

Eight Passenger: second row 60/40 split flat-folding bench with Smart Slide

Seven Passenger: second row flat-folding captain’s chairs with Smart Slide


Toyota Highlander

Two in second row

Stadium seating

Second Row: 40/20/40 split and fold-flat reclining and sliding

Third Row: one touch access, center stow console, 50/50 split fold-flat


Honda Pilot

Lower Anchors: all second row seats, third row passenger side

Tethers: all second row seats, third row all

Second Row: 60/40 split, flat-folding sliding and reclining bench seat

Third Row: 60/40 split, flat-folding bench seat

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