The best family SUVs aren't always the biggest, the most powerful, or the most stylish. The best family SUVs are those that represent the closest fit to the needs of each individual buyer and their loved ones, whether that be the requirement of hauling seven or more passengers, transporting a ton of cargo, or towing a camping trailer to the lake on the weekends. Some family SUV shoppers prize fuel economy over size, or maneuverability over power, while others simply want to get a good deal on a “jack-of-all-trades” type of vehicle. We've put together a list of 10 of the best family SUVs that should be a strong match for a wide range of different driving needs.
Photo Credit: Toyota
1) 2016 Toyota Highlander
The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a full-size family SUV that does everything well. Eight-passenger seating across three rows, on top of the ability to cram the Toyota Highlander to the rafters with 83.7 cubic feet of cargo make it a versatile vehicle, and its unibody chassis gives it more car-like handling than one might expect from a crossover of its size. The entry-level four-cylinder power checks in at 185 horses from a 2.7-liter unit, but opting for the 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 provides very similar fuel economy (19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway). A six-speed automatic transmission is provided with each drivetrain.
2) 2016 Chevrolet Suburban
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban has reigned at the top of the affordable full-size SUV pyramid for years when it comes to overall utility. This is thanks in large part to its pickup-based platform that allows the Chevrolet Suburban to tow just over 8,100 lbs, as well as carry a whopping 121.1 cubic feet of cargo inside its cavernous interior. Throw in available nine-passenger seating and it's clear that the Suburban can get the job done. A 5.3-liter V-8 good for 355 horsepower is standard with the SUV, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is listed at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, and four-wheel drive can be added as an option.
3) 2016 Dodge Durango
The 2016 Dodge Durango is a large crossover SUV that tempts families looking to balance their need for practicality with their desire to drive something a little bit smaller than an aircraft carrier. The Dodge Durango, which can be had in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive models (depending on engine choice), features a smooth ride that truck-based SUVs just can't match and offers seven-passenger seating that is backed by 84.5 cubic feet of total storage space with the rear rows out of the picture. Most buyers will be happy with the Durango's 295-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 (which also returns fuel mileage figures of 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway), but a thirstier 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is available for those who feel the need to sample its 360 ponies and 390 lb-ft of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
4) 2016 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox gains a spot on our list of good family SUVs due to its strong capabilities despite riding on a compact platform. The Chevrolet Equinox delivers significant second-row room (and seats five passengers in total), and a large hatch makes it easy to access its 63.7 cubic feet of total storage space. The Equinox is a very maneuverable crossover, and its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder base motor provides 182 horsepower and fuel economy of 22 mpg around town and 32 mpg highway. A 3.6-liter V-6 engine is also available, and it offers up 301 ponies while dropping fuel economy significantly for each respective measure. All-wheel drive is optional and a six-speed automatic transmission is standard for both engines.
5) 2016 Lincoln MKX
The fully redesigned 2016 Lincoln MKX is a mid-size crossover vehicle that seats five passengers across two rows. The MKX still focuses more on providing a refined ride, rather than one that’s performance-oriented, and has an updated list of equipment to help achieve that goal. That said, the 2016 MKX’s performance won’t disappoint. The base MKX boats 303 horsepower from its 3.7-liter V-6 engine, and a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 makes 335. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional, with a six-speed automatic transmission managing the power.
6) 2016 Honda Pilot
The 2016 Honda Pilot has been fully updated for this year, and though its hard corners have been smoothed out, its conservative styling is still one of its primary strengths. The Pilot can still carry eight passengers (or seven, with optional second-row captain’s chairs), but total cargo space has been reduced somewhat, to 83.9 cubic feet. The Pilot is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 that offers up 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and fuel mileage is listed at 20 mpg in stop and go driving and 27 mpg on the highway - excellent numbers for a vehicle in its class and an improvement over the outgoing generation. All-wheel drive can be added to the Honda SUV as an option.
7) 2016 Toyota RAV4
The 2016 Toyota RAV4, a compact SUV, chooses not to compete with the larger seven-passenger options in the class. Instead, this two-row, five-passenger option provides decent power and above-average fuel economy. The 2016 RAV4 comes powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. It generates a modest 176 horsepower, but the reward is the 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway that buyers can expect to achieve. The 2016 Toyota RAV4 comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional.
Photo Credit: Ford
8) 2016 Ford Expedition
The 2016 Ford Expedition is one of the best family SUVs that comes in both standard and extended-wheelbase (EL) editions. Although either can be configured to carry as many as eight adults, the Ford Expedition EL is 15 inches longer and be counted on to deliver a generous 130.8 cubic feet of total cargo space. Towing is another one of the Expedition's fortes, with 9,200 lb trailers posing no difficulty for the sport utility vehicle. The 2016 Expedition comes powered by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that produces 365 horsepower and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission.
9) 2016 Buick Enclave
The 2016 Buick Enclave is a premium SUV that doesn't sacrifice comfort or style in the pursuit of practicality. The Buick Enclave's eight-passenger cabin is dripping with luxury features and high end trim, and the attractive vehicle also comes with 116 cubic feet of total cargo space as well as the ability to tow up to 4,500 lbs. A single engine option is offered with the Enclave, a 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6, and fuel mileage for the crossover is listed at 17 mpg around town and 24 mpg during highway cruising. A six-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties for the Buick, and all-wheel drive can be added to enhance traction.
Photo Credit: Subaru
10) 2016 Subaru Forester
The 2016 Subaru Forester is notable for its excellent standard all-wheel drive system, but this compact SUV also provides plenty of practicality, with seating for five passengers and plenty of space for cargo. The Forester also provides fuel economy ratings of up to 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, which is good considering that all-wheel drive always sacrifices a little efficiency, and most of the competition is ranked based on its front-wheel drive numbers. The 2016 Forester offers two drivetrains. There’s a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower and comes with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Turbo power helps boost the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which yields 250 horsepower and comes with the continuously variable transmission.