Picking the best mid-size SUVs for 2016 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 2016.
1) 2016 Subaru Forester
The 2016 Subaru Forester is an efficient and functional SUV that boasts some new equipment and options for this model year. For the best efficiency, select a Forester equipped with the continuously variable automatic transmission, because it boosts fuel mileage to 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway when paired with the base model’s 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower engine. It’s worth noting, though, that 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. The 2015 model year Forester passed each of the IIHS's grueling frontal-offset overlap crash tests with flying colors - a rare achievement for any class of vehicle.
2) 2016 Acura MDX
The 2016 Acura MDX is a mid-size, seven-passenger SUV that has recently begun to evolve 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, which comes paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
3) 2016 Toyota Highlander
The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a mid-size SUV that boasts many of the same amenities and features that distinguish bigger SUVs. It features a generous interior that can accommodate up to eight passengers across three rows of seating. The Highlander consistently earns excellent safety ratings, which helps explain why it’s so popular with families. Power and driving dynamics are comparable to the other vehicles in the class. The Highlander offers two drivetrains: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that yields 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission, which puts power to the front wheels or all four corners.
4) 2016 Dodge Durango
The 2016 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. Some Durango models will come equipped with fuel-saving engine stop-start technology, new for 2016.
5) 2016 Ford Edge
The 2016 Ford Edge is a five-passenger SUV that presents shoppers with a ton of drivetrain choices and trim levels. Most buyers will be happiest with the 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6; for better fuel economy, look at the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 245 ponies and a bit more torque. The best performance comes from the Edge Sport model, producing 315 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque from a 2.7-liter twin turbo V-6. Six-speed automatic transmissions come paired to every engine, and front-wheel drive is standard while all-wheel drive is optional. When it's time to carry cargo instead of people, the Edge comes through with 73.4 cubic feet of interior space.
6) 2016 Honda Pilot
An oft-cited favorite amongst mid-size SUVs, the 2016 Honda Pilot’s redesign should certainly help the vehicle retain its reputation. The Pilot seats eight across three rows, in an upscale cabin finished in high-quality trims and materials. The 2016 Pilot comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 280 horsepower. Though the base model Pilot is a bit, well, basic, with a modest list of features and a six-speed automatic transmission, higher trim levels offer plenty of equipment and the opportunity to upgrade to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available.
7) 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe is a true three-row mid-size SUV that is not to be confused with its 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. Despite its low starting price, 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. For the best power, look for a Santa Fe featuring the robust 3.3-liter V-6 engine that’s rated at 290 horses.
8) 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2016 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. 2016 Grand Cherokee models enjoy a slight weight reduction, improved fuel economy, and some new features since last year’s versions.
9) 2016 Mazda CX-9
The 2016 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-size 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 capability and safety.
10) 2016 Infiniti QX70
The 2016 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. Available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, every 2016 QX70 comes powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that produces 325 horsepower and is paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission.