The best 7 passenger SUVs are those which are able to replace not just a family sedan but also a minivan via their people-moving and cargo-hauling capacity. With one more row of seating than a traditional full-size car, and with greater ground clearance and available all-wheel or four- wheel drive - a rarity on the minivan market - 7 passenger SUVs straddle the line between several segments. This makes them amongst the most versatile high capacity vehicles available, and explains their stunning popularity in the United States.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best 7 passenger SUVs that money can buy.
2015 Audi Q7
Audi’s glam SUV is a mechanical sibling to both the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne, and, conveniently, combines some of the best elements of both (although of the trio, the Audi has the least off-road capability). The 2015 Q7 comes with three powertrain options. There’s a 3-liter supercharged V6 with 280 horsepower, a 3-liter turbodiesel V6, and a tuned-up version of the supercharged V6 that offers a 53-horsepower boost. All three models feature Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The Q7’s passengers are treated well, with a sophisticated cabin design and high-quality materials, as well as a thoughtful list of standard and optional safety features.
2015 Mazda CX-9
The 2015 Mazda CX-9 is the 7 passenger SUV of choice for drivers who don't want to sacrifice handling and fun in the name of high capacity hauling. The Mazda CX-9, which also offers a generous 101 cubic feet of total interior storage space, is one of the few large crossovers that truly feels in touch with the road. Its handling complements its sporty styling, and the 273 horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 that is standard with each and every CX-9 does a good job of keeping acceleration in line with expectations. All-wheel drive can be ordered with the Mazda suv, and fuel economy shows as 17 mpg in stop and go driving and 24 mpg on the highway.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GL
When money is no object, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL series is a great way to cruise around with six lucky friends. It’s the biggest SUV in the Mercedes lineup, offering three rows of seating wrapped in plenty of decadence, like real wood trim, lots of leather, and high-end electronics. There are four distinct models under the GL badge, each featuring its own engine paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. They range from the GL 350, which is a six-cylinder turbodiesel with 240 horsepower, to the top-of-the-line GL 63 AMG that boasts 550 horsepower. All four versions of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL come equipped with all-wheel drive.
2015 Acura MDX
The 2015 Acura MDX almost seems like it was specifically designed to be a minivan alternative. It offers spacious and convenient transportation for a large family, and it’s powered by a newly direct-injected version of Acura’s steadfast and reliable 3.5-liter V6 engine, putting down a competent 290 horsepower. For 2015, the MDX comes standard with front-wheel drive, but there’s an all-wheel drive system available as an upgrade for better control, handling and comfort. Inside, the MDX provides some cool little features on all three rows of seating for great flexibility and accessibility.
2015 Land Rover LR4
The 2015 Land Rover LR4 not only delivers the kind of high end luxury that buyers have come to expect from the British brand, but the 7 passenger SUV also features off-road chops that are simply missing from the vast majority of its premium competitors. The Land Rover LR4 comes with full-time four-wheel drive as well as the Terrain Response system that matches the SUV's traction control, engine, transmission, and other system parameters to the surfaces that the vehicle is traveling over. The LR4 was updated with an all-new drivetrain in 2014, in an attempt to remedy the outgoing V8’s lackluster fuel economy. The replacement is a 3-liter supercharged V6, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, for 340 horsepower. It’s almost as quick as the old V8 LR4, and gas mileage is a little better at 15 mpg city and 19 mpg on the highway.
2015 Dodge Durango
The 2015 Dodge Durango mixes old-school SUV toughness with a compliant unibody platform borrowed from the lauded Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Dodge Durango's 7 passenger seating is complemented by 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and its rear-wheel drive layout is rare in a crowd of front-wheel drive contenders (don't worry - all-wheel and four-wheel drive can also be ordered with the Durango). Those who plan on using the Durango primarily for passenger purposes will be content with the 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter base V6, while anyone looking to tow a load of up to 7,400 lbs will be more comfortable with its available 5.7-liter HEMI V8's 360 horsepower. In 2014, the Durango was updated with a new eight-speed auto transmission borrowed from the Jeep lineup. Fuel mileage is understandably stronger with the V6, and is listed at 16 mpg around town and 23 mpg on the highway.
Photo Credit: Christian Wardlaw
2015 Nissan Pathfinder
The Nissan Pathfinder was redesigned over the last couple model years, making it one of the more competitive options for people-hauling, with good fuel economy and drivability. The Nissan Pathfinder is compliant over rough pavement, and it also provides close to 80 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear rows out of the picture. The 2015 Pathfinder is powered by a 260- horsepower V6 displacing 3.5 liters, and thanks in part to a continuously-variable automatic transmission the vehicle returns fuel mileage of 19 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway. There’s also a hybrid version of the Pathfinder that was introduced in 2014, offering a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with a 15kW electric motor and a continuously variable transmission, providing more than 500 miles of range. All-wheel drive is of course available as an option with the Nissan.
2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai’s made some updates to its Santa Fe for the 2015 model year. The chassis got some minor upgrades, such as revised suspension components, and a few new safety features havebeen added to the already-long list of standard equipment. The Santa Fe is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine that provides 290 horsepower, which is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Santa Fe is available in both front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations. Add in Hyundai’s solid warranty and the 2015 Santa Fe looks even more like a really good option for family travel.
2015 Ford Flex
The 2015 Ford Flex offers all of the utility of a big 7 passenger SUV wrapped in a package that looks far more like a tall wagon than a crossover. The Ford Flex's box-like styling isn't for everyone, but it definitely stands out from the rest of the sport-utility pack. The Flex also happens to come with excellent handling for such a large vehicle, as well as unusual options like a second-row refrigerator that sits between the available captain's chairs. On top of its 83 cubic feet of total cargo space, the Ford features the available of two V6 engines: a 287- horsepower, 3.5-liter unit, and a turbocharged version of that same mill that churns out a stout 365 horses. The latter EcoBoost model comes with standard all-wheel drive (a feature which is optional with the naturally-aspirated V6), and fuel mileage for the entry-level motor is listed at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
2015 Infiniti QX80
For 2014, Infiniti changed the name of the full-size QX to the QX80. For 2015, Infiniti’s made a few updates to the styling and features list. The Infiniti QX is a behemoth of a luxury SUV, a vehicle that looms over other 7 passenger options with its ostentatious styling and its sumptuously appointed and recently upgraded interior. The Infiniti QX80 can be had in both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive versions, and is powered by a 400 horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 engine. The towing capacity of this giant shows as 8,500 lbs. The Infiniti delivers fuel economy of 14 mpg in stop and go driving and 20 mpg on the highway.