Seven-passenger SUVs and crossovers have essentially replaced minivans as the most popular family vehicles on the market. In many cases more stylish than their function-first counterparts, and with the added all-weather bonus of available all-wheel drive, high capacity passenger SUVs fill an important role in the automotive ecosystem. As with any segment, there are standouts and there are also-rans, so we put together this list to help highlight some of the models we think are worthy of a test drive. Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best seven-passenger SUVs currently available.
1) 2015 Ford Flex
The 2015 Ford Flex is a seven-passenger SUV that has never really walked the line with its contemporaries, choosing instead to embrace a boxy, ‘60s-era surf wagon design that counts a long, flat roof and slab sides as its most prominent features. Moving past the arresting styling, the Ford Flex is quite roomy inside, offering three rows of seating plus 83 cubic feet of available cargo space. Under the hood, buyers can choose between either a 287-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 or a optional 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 that produces 365 horses. All-wheel drive is standard with the EcoBoost mill and optional with the base engine, while a six-speed automatic transmission is included across the board. Fuel mileage for the Flex tops out at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway (when powered by the naturally-aspirated V-6).
2) 2015 Nissan Pathfinder
The Nissan Pathfinder was redesigned within the last couple of model years, making it one of the more competitive options for people-hauling, with good fuel economy and drivability. The 2015 Pathfinder is powered by a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, and a continuously variable transmission helps the Pathfinder get fuel mileage ratings of 19 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway. Just as comfortable and even more efficient, the 2015 Pathfinder Hybrid offers a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with a 15kW electric motor and a continuously variable transmission, providing more than 500 miles of range. Both drivetrains can be ordered with optional all-wheel drive.
3) 2015 Dodge Durango
The 2015 Dodge Durango offers impressive towing capacity (7,400 lbs max) to go with its seven-passenger seating. The Dodge Durango can also transport 84.5 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats out of the picture, making it an effective hauler across the board. An eight-speed automatic transmission helps the SUV improve the fuel mileage of both its 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and its 360-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The former checks in with 18 mpg in stop and go driving and 25 mpg on the highway, which is the better measure of the two motors. Four-wheel drive can be had as an option with the Durango, and when ordering the V-8, it is possible to specify a low-range system that is more effective in off-road situations.
4) 2015 Audi Q7
The 2015 Audi Q7 brings something unique to the seven-passenger SUV table: diesel power. It's possible to order the Audi Q7 with a turbodiesel V-6, a 3.0-liter mill that produces 240 horsepower and a whopping 406 lb-ft of torque, which is on top of a fuel mileage rating of 19 mpg around town and 28 mpg on the highway. A supercharged gasoline V-6 (also 3.0 liters) is available, too, and it ups the ante to 333 horses. An eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive are standard with either version of the Q7, which features three rows of seating along with 72.5 cubic feet of total cargo space.
5) 2015 Toyota Highlander
The 2015 Toyota Highlander provides eight-passenger capacity standard, but offers the option to swap the second row bench for captain's chairs. In addition, the Toyota Highlander's 83.7 cubic feet of total cargo capacity places it in good standing with other vehicles on this list. A 2.7-liter, 185-horsepower four-cylinder is included with the base Highlander, but the SUV's 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is a better bet - and it gets nearly the same fuel mileage (20 mpg city/25 mpg highway, only a one-mpg improvement around town). A Highlander Hybrid is also available. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the SUV, and all-wheel drive is optional.
6) 2015 Chevrolet Traverse
The 2015 Chevrolet Traverse boasts the largest interior of any vehicle on our list of seven passenger SUVs, which explains its mammoth 117.5 cubic feet of total cargo space, plus the fact that it is also available in eight-passenger trim. The Chevrolet Traverse doesn't drive like a bulky truck, however, thanks to the sedan platform that underpins it, and this makes the SUV one of the more pleasant people movers to pilot on a daily basis. A 3.6-liter V-6 is the only engine offered with the Chevrolet, and it generates 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed automatic transmission and the option of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Fuel economy for the front-wheel drive Traverse shows as 17 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg during highway cruising.
7) 2015 Mazda CX-9
The 2015 Mazda CX-9 might be one of the few seven-passenger SUVs that is genuinely engaging to drive. The Mazda CX-9's chassis has been tuned to offer handling and feedback on the same level as a sport sedan, and while the vehicle's mass might cancel out some of the fun, it's head-and-shoulders above many of its rivals when the road turns curvy. Powering the CX-9 is a 3.7-liter V-6 that offers up 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed automatic handling the gear shifting duties and available all-wheel drive adding extra traction for those who need it. Fuel economy figures for the Mazda are listed at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, and interior storage space maxes out at 101 cubic feet.
8) 2015 Infiniti QX60
The 2015 Infiniti QX60 rides on a platform that is very similar to that of the Nissan Pathfinder, but with a luxury twist. Tuned to feel ultra-quiet and compliant from behind the wheel, the Infiniti QX60 goes after premium seven-passenger SUV customers who prefer to be coddled rather than engage in a slalom while taking the kids to soccer practice. It's also worth nothing that the QX60 can be loaded to the brim with advanced safety features such as a collision mitigation system and a blind spot monitor, and as much as 76.5 cubic feet of cargo can be stuffed inside its plush environs. A 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 (that also generates 248 lb-ft of torque) is the sole engine offered between the Infiniti's front fenders, and all-wheel drive is available via the options sheet. The QX60's fuel mileage is rated at 21 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway, a slight boost over the previous model year thanks to an upgraded continuously variable transmission for 2015.
9) 2015 Acura MDX
The Acura MDX was redesigned for 2014, helping the SUV solidify its position as one of the most popular premium people movers around. The three-row 2015 Acura MDX can haul as much as 90.9 cubic feet of cargo with the back seats out of the picture, and it also offers Acura's typical range of high tech features and comforts. All-wheel drive is optional with the MDX, which makes use of a 3.5-liter V-6 that is good for 290 ponies and 267 lb-ft of twist. A six-speed automatic transmission is included with each and every version of the Acura, which returns fuel mileage of 20 mpg in stop and go driving and 28 mpg on the highway.
10) 2015 Land Rover LR4
The 2015 Land Rover LR4 is the family SUV of choice for drivers who want to break free from the confines of the open road and sample an off-road trail or two on the weekends. Built on a rugged full-frame platform, the Land Rover LR4 comes with full-time four-wheel drive and the Terrain Response system, which optimizes the vehicle's setting when dealing with tricky driving conditions. The Land Rover's optional third row of seating improves its passenger capacity to seven, and 90 cubic feet of total cargo capacity are available inside its confines. As luxurious as it is capable, the LR4 comes with a 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 pulling duty under its hood, where it produces 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with the SUV, which turns in fuel mileage figures of 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway.