We begin with number ten. Built on a truck frame and backed by a reputation for reliability, the Toyota 4Runner is one of the toughest SUVs on the market. Its off-road abilities and cargo space make it a great adventure vehicle. SUVs like the 4Runner lag in popularity compared to car-based crossovers due to their inferior on-road handling and fuel economy. Yet no crossover can match the all-terrain talents or durability of the Toyota 4Runner.
No matter which 4Runner one chooses, it will come with Toyota’s trusted and longstanding 4.0-liter V6 engine. It produces 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The engine delivers plenty of power for everything from highway cruising to rock-crawling. It is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The 4Runner takes regular fuel and has a 23-gallon gas tank.
The EPA estimates the two-wheel-drive 4Runner should return 16/19/17 mpg city/highway/combined, which lags behind many midsize crossover SUVs. $36,590 – $50,57 (Free Price Quote)
If your family has outgrown the Forester or Outback, the three-row Subaru Ascent could hit the spot. It doesn’t have the roomiest third row, but it’s got plenty of that distinctive Subaru character.
A 2.4-liter, horizontally opposed 4-cylinder Subaru Boxer engine is at the heart of the Ascent, giving it ample power for passing cars on the highway and towing up to 5,000 pounds. It makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. The Ascent uses a continuously-variable transmission that mimics an automatic transmission, and it has an 8-speed manual mode and paddle shifters.
The EPA gives a fuel economy rating of 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined, which is average for the class, though some rivals offer more fuel-efficient hybrid powertrains. It has a 19.3-gallon fuel tank capacity. $32,295 – $45,445. (Free Price Quote)
The Dodge Durango does things a little differently, carrying on with an aging but proven formula. Excellent towing capacity, available V8 power and a roomy interior are bundled up with healthy helping of attitude.
Most of the Durango lineup is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It connects to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, while all-wheel-drive is available for about $2,500 extra. The EPA estimates fuel economy of 19/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined. It will tow 6,200 pounds.
The R/T trim is where driving performance starts getting serious. Under the hood is a 5.7-liter V8 producing 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. The difference in power from the V6 is evident while driving, and the R/T has quick acceleration and is sporty to drive. It has steering wheel paddle shifters, should the need arise to change gears manually. Fuel economy takes a decent hit, at 14/22/17 mpg. This motor is also available in the luxurious Durango Citadel trim.
Next is the SRT 392’s 6.4-liter V8, a 392-cubic-inch Hemi motor making 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It’s estimated to accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, completing the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds. Both the SRT 392 and the SRT Hellcat have a best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
The SRT Hellcat features a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat V8 paired with a quick eight-speed automatic transmission. It produces 710 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful mainstream SUV ever built. According to Dodge, it’ll accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 11.5 seconds — numbers comparable to a sports car in a three-row family SUV. $31,765 – $62,995. (Free Price Quote)
The Enclave is a close cousin of the Chevrolet Traverse but slightly dressed up. It’s a well-rounded three-row SUV with class-leading power and space. It’s worth a look if you fancy a quiet and comfortable ride that’s easy to wheel around town.
All trim levels come with a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Buick has used this motor in several applications, and it has a reputation for smooth power delivery. In the Enclave, it produces 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Spark-ignition direct fuel injection and a start-stop engine system help improve fuel economy. Unlike most competitors, the Enclave is one luxury SUV that only requires regular unleaded fuel.
Power is sent from the engine through a nine-speed automatic transmission that operates well. The Enclave doesn’t have the sporty feel of rivals. Instead, it floats along highways and backroads quietly and without drama. Front-wheel drive is standard, with an all-wheel drivetrain available. $40,000 – $56,000. (Free Price Quote)
The Toyota Highlander gets high marks for its superb comfort, responsive acceleration, and above-average fuel economy. But if third-row-seat space is important to you, the Highlander’s accommodations can’t compete with the top SUVs in this segment.
Toyota uses the Highlander’s 3.5-liter V6 engine in many other models, and it has a reputation for dependability and smooth power delivery. In the Highlander, the engine produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, which is more than sufficient for the midsize SUV. A 243-horsepower hybrid is available. Its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine makes less torque (175 pound-feet) but compensates for it with stellar fuel economy. It has regenerative braking, which helps capture some of the otherwise lost energy and reroutes it to the battery.
The gas Highlander uses an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the hybrid makes the most out of its efficient setup with a single-speed CVT. No matter the trim or engine one chooses, the Highlander comes with front- or all-wheel-drive.
The Highlander has a 17.9-gallon fuel capacity; the hybrid has a slightly smaller 17.1-gallon tank. The EPA estimates a gas Highlander with FWD should return 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined. The hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 36/35/36 mpg. $34,600 – $48,800. (Free Price Quote)
The Mazda CX-9 is one of the best, and best-looking, three-row crossovers on the road. It’s a pleasure to drive and offers a loaded feature list and an upscale interior. Notably, there’s less cargo and third-row space than you’ll find in some competitors.
All CX-9s employ the same Mazda SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter Dynamic Pressure Turbo four-cylinder engine that generates 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded fuel. Mazda says engine power gets bumped up to 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque using premium unleaded — more than enough muscle for the midsize CX-9. However, its 3,500-pound towing capacity is a bit low for the category.
The EPA estimates fuel economy of up to 24 mpg combined. That’s relatively good, considering the CX-9’s size and performance potential.
Mazda builds some of the most fun-to-drive powertrains on the market, and the potent engine is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. The Carbon Edition and above trims come with paddle shifters, should the driver want to change gears manually. All-wheel-drive is available at an extra cost, and it comes included with the top-flight Signature model. $34,160 – $46,805. (Free Price Quote)
The Volkswagen Atlas is a spacious SUV with a third row that even adults can use, a massive cargo area and a comfortable ride. It’s a bit underpowered and lacks personality, but it’s still a top pick for a family hauler.
The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is turbocharged and generates 235 horsepower. It also makes 258 pound-feet of torque, which is enough power for hauling around multiple people but isn’t exactly sporty to drive. The EPA estimates that the Atlas with this engine and equipped with front-wheel-drive should return 20/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined. Those numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, especially against rivals that come with hybrid powertrains.
For more confident acceleration and vehicle passing, shoppers can opt for a 3.6-liter V6. This smooth motor makes 276 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The EPA rates this engine at 16/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined.
Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Should the driver want more control over the power band, the gear shifter can be moved to manual mode. Front-wheel-drive is standard, and all-wheel-drive is available. $31,545 – $50,695. (Free Price Quote)
The Honda Pilot just makes things easy, from driving long distances to carrying a lot of people and stuff. With a smooth ride, plentiful features and smart packaging, this SUV has a lot of strengths.
The Pilot gets its power from a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which provides good acceleration. It produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The Pilot uses a 9-speed automatic transmission.
The EPA estimates the Pilot with front-wheel-drive should return fuel economy of 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The Pilot’s good gas mileage and large 19.5-gallon gas tank mean drivers can spend less time refueling and more time chasing their next adventure. $32,250 – $49,920. (Free Price Quote)
The Hyundai Palisade might be new to the competitive three-row SUV segment, but it’s already putting its competition on notice. Packed with value, comfort, and capability throughout its trim levels, the Palisade is a great pick for a family SUV.
The Palisade gets its power from a 3.8-liter V6 used in other Hyundai vehicles. It produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty of oomph for accelerating and passing cars on the highway. It’s the same engine as the one used in the Kia Telluride. The engine is smooth and quiet, yet it’s strong enough to give the Hyundai a stout 5,000-pound towing capacity. The Palisade employs an 8-speed automatic transmission, which has selectable driving modes and paddle shifters for when drivers want to control the action.
The EPA estimates front-wheel-drive models should return 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined, and with all-wheel-drive, those numbers dip slightly to 19/24/21 mpg. The Palisade comes with a large 18.8-gallon fuel tank capacity. $32,675 – $47,900. (Free Price Quote)
The Kia Telluride is the number one pick for a midsize three-row SUV. Its upscale cabin is quiet, comfortable and thoughtfully designed. It comes packed with standard features and tech, and it even has adult-friendly third-row seating. For the money, there are few more appealing ways to move seven or eight people.
The Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It provides plenty of power for the midsize Kia and connects to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front- and all-wheel-drive are available. The Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It has an 18.8-gallon fuel tank.
The EPA estimates that the Kia should return fuel economy of 20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined, which are typical numbers for this category of SUV. $32,190 – $44,390. (Free Price Quote)