Picking the best mid-size SUVs for 2014 is a tough task - not because there a lack of strong performers in the segment, but rather because there's so many. Mid-size SUVs have become the de facto family cars of the 21st century, and as a result more and more companies have poured their resources into making these vehicles comfortable, fuel efficient, and enjoyable to drive.
As with any type of automobile, there are certain mid-size SUVs that shine brightly in one area or another in an attempt to attract a specific niche of buyers to showrooms. While each of the vehicles on our list is a solid overall choice, they still have their respective strengths that give them appeal over and above their other attributes.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best mid-size SUVs for 2014.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 01 - 2014 Subaru Forester
The 2014 Subaru Forester took a major leap forward this model year, especially in the drivetrain department. A new continuously-variable automatic transmission boosts fuel mileage to 24-mpg city and 32-mpg highway for versions of the Subaru Forester featuring its 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower base engine, and even the 250 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder edition of the SUV offers just a few miles per gallon less around town (and 28-mpg highway). Moving past efficiency, the all-wheel drive Forester also enjoys Subaru's reputation for safety, having passed each of the IIHS's grueling frontal-offset overlap crash tests with flying colors - a rare achievement for any class of vehicle.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 02 - 2014 Acura MDX
The 2014 Acura MDX is another mid-size SUV that has benefited from a recent redesign that gives it more interior room, as well as its own unique platform that further separates it from its Honda roots. What most buyers will appreciate about the Acura MDX, however, is just how much standard equipment is offered with the SUV. Features such as real leather seats (with heaters and memory function), a power liftgate, three zones of automatic climate control, a touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, and Internet-enabled apps all come free of charge with the Acura. 290 horses and 267 lb-ft of torque are a bonus from the MDX's tweaked 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 03 - 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid manages to do what few other battery-assisted SUVs can: offer a respectable, real-world mileage upgrade over its gas-powered twin. Despite other aspects of the SUV having been re-configured for 2014, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid hasn't seen many changes made to the 3.5-liter V-6 engine and trio of electric motors that comprise its hybrid setup, with combined fuel mileage remaining at 28-mpg and output showing as 280 horsepower. This figure is excellent amongst mid-size SUVs, and it's made the Highlander Hybrid one of the few three-row vehicles that doesn't make owners pay a penalty at the fuel pump.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 04 - 2014 Dodge Durango
The 2014 Dodge Durango flirts with the capabilities offered by truck-based SUVs while delivering the kind of smooth and comfortable ride inherent in its unibody design. To call the Dodge Durango a 'halfling' is to do it a disservice, as its three rows of seating and respectable driving dynamics don't draw from the same well as a full-frame sport-utility model. Taking a look at its towing capacity, however - a full 7,400 lbs when ordered with its 360 horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 - indicates that there's something special about this mid-size SUV that can't be found in the majority of its competitors. Even the V-6 model (3.6-liters, 290 horsepower) can pull 6,200 lbs worth of trailer.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 05 - 2014 Ford Explorer Sport
The 2014 Ford Explorer Sport manages to live up to that word appended to the distinguished Explorer name. The Ford Explorer Sport certainly isn't sedan-like when it comes to handling, but the engineers at the Blue Oval have programmed in a fair amount of road-holding in its suspension system to compliment its four-wheel drive. Even better is what's found under the hood: a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 that churns out 365 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to scoot the SUV to 60-mph from a standing start in just a tick over six seconds. This makes it one of the quickest entries on our list of mid-size people movers.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 06 - 2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC didn’t make our mid-size SUV round-up based on the sheer length of its name. Rather, the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC stands out as having one of the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid drivetrains on the market. The M-Class' available 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V-6 can be relied on the generate 240 horsepower and a prodigious 455 lb-ft of torque, but even better is the fact that it offers up 20-mpg in city driving and 28-mpg on the highway. These numbers - even with its standard four-wheel drive - are astonishing given the amount of grunt available from the Mercedes-Benz.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 07 - 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe has grown into a true three-row mid-size SUV thanks to its redesign, which begets it a new platform, fresh styling, and a smaller, baby brother (the Santa Fe Sport). The seven-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe, however, is also notable for offering strong value to bargain-hunting family shoppers. With a starting price of just $29,900, the Santa Fe delivers heated front seats (with power adjustment for the driver), a reclining second row seat (that also slides), Bluetooth connectivity, power windows and door locks, 18-inch rims, HD radio, a touchscreen information center, and a rearview camera - and that's just on the base model. More affordably-priced goodies are available further up the Hyundai Santa Fe's trim ladder, and all models are powered by the same robust 3.3-liter V-6 that is rated at 290 horses.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 08 - 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a well-rounded mid-size SUV that provides many reasons for owners to celebrate their purchase, but for the purposes of this list we're going to focus on its off-road ability. Few sport-utility vehicles in its class are able to combine on-road comfort and all-terrain competence in quite the same way as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is available with not one, but three different four-wheel drive systems. The most capable - the Quadra-Drive II system - provides an electronic limited-slip differential out back along with low-range gearing and the option of a height-adjustable air suspension. So-equipped, there's very little that can stop the Grand Cherokee from reaching its final destination.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 09 - 2014 Mazda CX-9
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 doesn't have the overall performance flair exhibited by the Ford Explorer Sport - but it does feature a sublimely-tuned chassis that makes it a pleasure to drive. The Mazda CX-9 is certainly practical, with room for up to seven passengers, However, it's when the road gets twisty that the mid-SUV truly sparkles. The Mazda's handling is reminiscent of a vehicle half its size, and there's plenty of motivation to had from its 273 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 to keep things interesting on straighter bits, too. Adding optional all-wheel drive to the mix improves year-round fun, and safety.
10 Best Mid-Size SUVS 2014 - 10 - 2014 Infiniti QX70
The 2014 Infiniti QX70 is an SUV in name, but a sports sedan in attitude. Yes, its passenger compartment is a little cramped, and no, it doesn't provide the same amount of cargo space as some of its more task-focused rivals, but the Infiniti QX70 marries the attitude of the Nissan 370Z platform on which it is based with the exciting 'bionic cheetah' styling that instantly identify as something different. The end result is an unusually potent package, one made all the more appealing once its 390 horsepower V-8 and available all-wheel drive are specified at ordering time.