2017 Jeep Wrangler Chief Front Quarter ・ Photo by Jeep
If you are in the market for an SUV, you may have noticed that the number of model options seems to be expanding. To help you narrow down the field, the expert editors at Autobytel have come up with a list of the ten best SUVs under $50,000.
These SUVs differ from the typical crossover in their construction and payload and towing capacity; where crossovers are typically based on cars and designed to carry passengers in relative comfort, SUVs are often truck-based (with a body-on-frame architecture) and better for hard work and off-road use. Read on to see if your favorite SUV made our list.
The 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe (as well as its platform mate the GMC Yukon) starts at $48,510 in two-wheel drive configuration (four-wheel drive is available, but not on our limited $50,000 budget). Towing capacity with the Max Trailering Package is 8,600 lbs, making the Tahoe ideal for towing while also hauling a full load of eight or nine passengers and their luggage.
Power comes from a 5.3-liter pushrod V8 that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels. Standard features include automatic climate control, five auxiliary 12-volt power outlets and an 110-volt outlet. You also get GM’s OnStar system with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi to help keep the kids connected and happy.
Photo by Chevrolet
Starting at just $29,995 in base two-wheel drive trim (and about $2,600 more for all-wheel drive), the 2017 Dodge Durango is a bit of a full-size SUV bargain in some configurations. Although, if you want a V8, you’ll need to step up to the Citadel trim level and pay at least $45,390.
Thankfully the 3.6-liter V6 pumps out 295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is a combo that gives the Durango a towing capacity of 6,200 lbs. Unfortunately fuel economy isn’t any better than rivals’ more powerful engines. Seating for five is standard, though an optional third row is a relatively inexpensive option that bumps that number up to seven.
Photo by Dodge
The 2017 Ford Expedition starts at $47,125 for standard wheelbase models (or $49,835 for an EL extended model), leaving you some room for options while staying under our $50k budget. There's enough left over to add the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package, which when combined with the 3.31 or 3.73 rear-axle ratios bumps towing capacity to over 9,000 lbs.
Depending on your needs you could also add a power moonroof or a rear load-leveling suspension. A turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine that makes 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque provide the power on all models. If you're looking for a comfortable yet powerful and capable full-size SUV, look no further than the Ford Expedition.
Photo by Ford
The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is a relatively inexpensive SUV with a starting price of $30,290 and an MSRP that sits under our $50k limit even when fully equipped. Despite being a front-wheel-drive-based SUV, the Pathfinder is remarkably capable off-road when equipped with the optional 4x4 system. A 3.5-liter V6 is the only available engine, and it puts out a reasonable 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. Some drivers will be disappointed to learn that an Xtronic CVT is the only transmission available, but in reality, it does the job without too many annoyances and returns decent fuel economy.
Standard features include a Tri-Zone Automatic Temperature Control System, an 8-inch infotainment system, and remote keyless entry. Maximum towing capacity is rated at 6,000 lbs.
Photo by Nissan
If you're in the market for a midsize luxury suv that is just as at home off the road as it is on, then a four-wheel drive 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the obvious choice. Trailhawk models start at $43,095 and come with the Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system (or Quadra-Trac II with a two-speed transfer case on V8 models) that includes Selec-Terrain with Selec-Speed Control and Rock Mode as well as a Quadra-Lift Air Suspension. Approach angle is 25.7 degrees, departure angle is 27.1 degrees, and there are 10.8 inches of ground clearance. A 3.6-liter V6 with 295 hp is standard, but the optional 5.7-liter Hemi with its 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque is easily within our reach on our budget.
Photo by Jeep
If you want a tough and burly looking SUV that can seat seven and tow up to 8,500 lbs, then the 2017 Nissan Armada might be the vehicle you’re looking for. All-wheel-drive versions of the base Armada SV start at $47,800 and come with a 5.6-liter V8 that creates 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is fairly dismal despite a 7-speed automatic transmission, but that’s somewhat expected of a vehicle this size that’s powered by a big V8. Even the base Armada is relatively well-equipped with standard features that include an eight-inch touchscreen with the Nissan Navigation System, rear air conditioning, keyless entry, four 12-volt outlets, four cup holders and eight bottle holders.
Photo by Nissan
The 2017 Honda Pilot (like the Honda Ridgeline pickup) uses a modern unibody construction, resulting in a more comfortable ride, though with less off-road capability and a lower towing capacity than some traditional body-on-frame designs (though you still get the room for up to eight passengers). With our $50,000 budget, you can afford any model from the range, including the base EX in front-wheel drive for $33,180 or the top of the line Elite that comes with standard all-wheel drive for $47,220. Power for all models comes from a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, mated to either a 6-speed (on lower trim versions) or 9-speed (on Touring and Elite models) automatic transmission.
Photo by Honda
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport starts at a surprisingly reasonable $37,695, though for that money you get a fairly low-spec model with only a partial leather interior. You do get Land Rover’s excellent Terrain Response system that works to maximize traction in tricky off-road situations. The top of the line HSE Luxury version comes in at $46,595 and adds a fixed panoramic roof, a powered tailgate, Windsor leather seats, a Meridian audio system, 19-inch wheels and Configurable Mood Lighting. Options include a third row of seating, a driver-assistance package, a head-up display and larger wheels and tires. All Discovery Sport models make use of a turbocharged 4-cylinder that pumps out 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque and a 9-speed automatic transmission.
Photo by Land Rover
The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is available in a number of different drivetrain configurations, but all are powered by a 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque backed by a five-speed automatic. Starting prices range anywhere from $36,085 for a base SR5 model all the way up to $44,560 for the Limited model, but it's the TRD Off-Road models that make the 4Runner unique. The TRD Pro is our favorite and comes with everything you need if you want to stray from the beaten path, including part-time four-wheel drive, Bilstein shocks, an electronically locking rear differential, an aluminum front skid plate, and Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control, all for an MSRP of $42,400.
Photo by Toyota
You can pick up a base 2017 Jeep Wrangler Sport starting at $23,995 or go for a top-of-the-line Rubicon Recon and still come in under our $50,000 cap. Power for all models comes from a 3.6-Liter Pentastar V6 that makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, backed by a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. With every revision, the Wrangler gets better on road, but it still can’t match the standards set by the other vehicles on our list; on the other hand, there isn’t another affordable SUV that can touch it off-road. A new more car-like (but still very capable) Wrangler should be going on sale later this year as a 2018 model.
Photo by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles