It's hard to know what criteria to use when judging which SUVs have the best cargo space. Is it more useful to have a sport-utility vehicle that is a champion at hauling as much gear as possible with the rear rows folded over, or is it preferable to maximize the amount of cargo that can be stored with a full load of passengers inside? Although most of the time we focus on the former figure, we thought it would be instructive to put together a list of SUVs that can carry a ton while still bringing along a full complement of passengers.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best SUV cargo space contenders out there.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 01 - 2013 Chevrolet Suburban
The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban - and the two other GM vehicles that share its platform, the GMC Yukon XL and the Cadillac Escalade ESV - are the very definition of full-size cargo mules. The extended wheelbase found with this trio of full-size SUVs gives them the ability to swallow copious amounts of luggage even with all three rows filled up with adult passengers. Behind the Suburban's third row it's possible to stuff 45.8 cubic feet of suitcases, dog food, hockey bags, or anything else that might fit into the spot between the seatback and the cargo hatch.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 02 - 2013 Ford Expedition EL
The 2013 Ford Expedition, and its luxury twin the Lincoln Navigator L, are essentially the Blue Oval's answer to the Suburban's full-size SUV market dominance. Like its Chevrolet rival, the Ford Expedition EL features a long wheelbase derived from a pickup truck platform (in this case, the best-selling Ford F-150). With the mammoth Excursion now departed from the Ford lineup, the Expedition EL steps in as the largest SUV available from the brand, and as such its 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats occupied is welcomed with open arms by large families and anyone who doesn't want to drive a full-size van around town.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 03 - 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse is another entry from General Motors that comes with not one, but two additional platform mates (the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave). Unlike the Suburban and its GMC and Cadillac siblings, however, there are a few tweaks when looking at the internal packaging of each of these eight-passenger full-size SUVs that change their full-up cargo capacity. While the Chevrolet Traverse is capable of handling up to 24.4 cubic feet of gear behind its rearmost row, the Acadia cuts that number by 0.3 cubic feet, and the Enclave by 1.1 cubic feet. Small margins, to be sure, but enough to make a difference on our list.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 04 - 2013 Ford Explorer
The 2013 Ford Explorer was recently redesigned, moving it from the truck-based platform of years past to a more comfortably-riding unibody design. Still qualifying as an SUV, the seven-passenger Ford Explorer shares its underpinnings with the Ford Flex, which also offers the ability to handle as many as seven occupants at a time. Like the Traverse, however, a subtle change in how the rear of the Explorer has been assembled allows it to handle 21 cubic feet of cargo with the back seat in place, whereas the squared-off Flex can 'only' take in 20 cubic feet.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 05 - 2013 Nissan Armada
The 2013 Nissan Armada lives up to its name when it comes to sheer bulk, as the full-size SUV is by far the brand's most imposing model. Unlike its full-frame competitors the Expedition EL and the Suburban, it doesn't feature the same stretched platform. This means that while third row seating is present and accounted for, the amount of space available behind that bench for hauling luggage is less than half as large. Still, 20 cubic feet is nothing to sneeze at, as it checks in at about the same size as the largest trunk available in a full-size sedan.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 06 - 2013 Honda Pilot
The 2013 Honda Pilot might not look as imposing as some of the other three row SUVs on this list, but it does have a tall, box-like shape going for it that helps it cram in as much cargo as possible with eight people riding along inside of it. The full-size Honda Pilot features a gap between its rear seatback and loading hatch that can accept 18 cubic feet of luggage, which means that it should be possible to accommodate almost everyone's bag for a weekend trip. Of course, you'll have to do some stacking, and the rearview mirror will probably not be an option during the drive, but creative packing demands a few sacrifices.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 07 - 2013 Dodge Durango
The 2013 Dodge Durango is a bit of an outlier on this list since its rear-wheel drive, V-8 powered design would seem to fit in better with the Suburban and the Expedition EL than the Pilot and the Explorer. Truth be told, the Dodge Durango is a very smooth-driving SUV that eschews the body-on-frame construction of past models in favor of its current design. Unfortunately, while that might translate into greater on-road comfort, it has also eaten into the SUV's cargo space, with 17.2 cubic feet available behind the third row - a respectable, but not class-leading number.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 08 - 2013 Infiniti QX56
The 2013 Infiniti QX56 is another surprise at this stage of our best SUV cargo space list. It wasn't long ago that the Nissan Armada and the Infiniti QX56 shared the same mechanical details, but a recent split has seen the Infiniti move onto the platform used by the Nissan Patrol, an off-road-oriented SUV not sold in the United States. The QX56 is still big and intimidating on the outside, but cargo space has dropped down to 16.6 cubic feet, a figure which is much closer to parity with a mid-size sedan than, say, the Cadillac Escalade.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 09 - 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser - aside from being the most expensive vehicle wearing a Toyota badge - is known for its off-road prowess, as well as its ability to seat as many as seven people while exploring the great unknown. An unusual design decision has the Toyota Land Cruiser's rearmost row of accommodations descending from the side of the cargo compartment, which means that space is a bit more limited than one might expect. 16.1 cubic feet of storage is useful, but if you plan to go on safari with a full crew complement, you are probably going to have to make use of some clever roof-rack solutions.
Best SUV Cargo Space - 10 - 2014 Nissan Pathfinder
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is a full-size SUV in the same vein as the Chevrolet Traverse, and visually it looks to be about the same size. When it comes to cargo space, however, the Nissan Pathfinder slides in just a tick under the Toyota Land Cruiser's rating with 16 cubic feet of space usable between its tailgate and its rearmost row. With a healthy tow rating of 5,000 lbs, it looks like towing a trailer is the best option if you have to stuff this SUV full of people and then hit the road for more than a few days.