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.
Best Family SUVs - 01 - 2012 Toyota Highlander
The 2012 Toyota Highlander is a full-size family SUV that does everything well. Seven passenger seating across three rows, on top of the ability to cram the Toyota Highlander to the rafters with 95.4 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. Entry-level four-cylinder power checks in at 187 horses from a 2.7-liter unit, but opting for the 276 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 provides very similar fuel economy (18-mpg city / 24-mpg highway). A six-speed automatic transmission is optional with each drivetrain, while all-wheel drive can be had exclusively with the six-cylinder model.
Best Family SUVs - 02 - 2012 Chevrolet Suburban 1500
The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 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 1500 to tow just over 8,000 lbs, as well as carry a whopping 137 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 320 horsepower is standard with the SUV, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is listed at 15-mpg city and 21-mpg highway, and four-wheel drive can be added as an option.
Best Family SUVs - 03 - 2012 Dodge Durango
The 2012 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, all-wheel, and four-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 290 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 (which also returns fuel mileage figures of 16-mpg city and 23-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. Transmission choices include a five-speed auto (V-6) and a six-speed auto (V-8).
Best Family SUVs - 04 - 2013 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2013 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 fresh 3.6-liter V-6 engine is available for 2013, 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.
Best Family SUVs - 05 - 2013 Lincoln MKX
The 2013 Lincoln MKX targets luxury-seeking family shoppers who want a fully-featured SUV that favors high tech gadgetry while also offering excellent comfort. On top of its five-passenger seating and substantial 69 cubic feet of total cargo space, the mid-size Lincoln MKX also comes with the MyLincoln Touch vehicle interface, SYNC, and the availability of advanced safety equipment including a blind spot monitoring system and adaptive cruise control. All versions of the MKX are outfitted with a 305 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that makes use of a six-speed automatic transmission to send its output to either the front or all four wheels (if optional all-wheel drive is ordered). Fuel mileage for the MKX is rated at 19-mpg in city driving and 26-mpg on the highway.
Best Family SUVs - 06 - 2012 Honda Pilot
The 2012 Honda Pilot comes across as a box on wheels - and that conservative styling is actually indicative of one of its primary strengths. The upright angles that make up the Honda Pilot are part of what gives family SUV shoppers so much interior room, as its eight passenger capacity and very usable 87 cubic feet of cargo space can attest to. The Pilot is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 that offers up 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque, and fuel mileage is listed at 18-mpg in stop and go driving and 25-mpg on the highway - excellent numbers for a vehicle in its class. All-wheel drive can be added to the Honda SUV as an option.
Best Family SUVs - 07 - 2012 Toyota RAV4
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 might fit into the compact segment, but three rows of seating for up to seven passengers project it as an intriguing family SUV choice. The Toyota RAV4's third row of accommodations is best left to the shorter legs of the very young, but the 73 cubic feet of total cargo space that it makes available with the rear accommodations out of the picture is open to everyone. All-wheel drive is offered with both the four-cylinder (2.5-liter, 179 horsepower) and V-6 (3.5-liter, 269 horsepower) versions of the RAV4 and fuel economy for the latter almost matches that of the former, with a rating of 19-mpg city and 27-mpg highway. Five-speed automatic transmissions are standard all around with the Toyota SUV.
Best Family SUVs - 08 - 2012 Ford Expedition
The 2012 Ford Expedition is one of the best family SUVs that comes in both standard and extended-wheelbase (XL) 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 full-frame Ford's muscular ways are enhanced by its standard 5.4-liter V-8, which churns out 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. Four-wheel drive is optional with the Expedition and a six-speed automatic gearbox helps the SUV return fuel mileage figures of 14-mpg city and 20-mpg highway.
Best Family SUVs - 09 - 2012 Buick Enclave
The 2012 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.
Best Family SUVs - 10 - 2012 Subaru Tribeca
The 2012 Subaru Tribeca is as notable for its standard all-wheel drive as it is for its seven-passenger, three-row seating arrangement and 74.4 cubic feet of total interior storage space. The Subaru Tribeca is an uncommon entry onto our list of the best family SUVs, which helps it appeal to those who want to park something unique in their driveway. The Tribeca also excels when it comes to safety, posting the usual top marks in standardized crash testing that have become a trademark for Subaru. The mid-size crossover is matched with a 3.6-liter, 256 horsepower six-cylinder engine, and a five-speed automatic is included free of charge with the vehicle.