volvo xc90 front/rear seat ・ Photo by Volvo
As car buyers continue to shift to crossovers, the number of luxury SUVs has doubled, tripled, and then quadrupled. Many of these luxo-crossovers seat just five, but a burgeoning number now fit seven or more in three rows of seats. Certainly, some of those third rows are more commodious than others, but simply being able to accommodate seven people for at least short trips can be a significant advantage.
Each of the vehicles on this list checks that box. At the same time, they check a lot of other boxes as well. Attractive interior? Check. Upscale entertainment system? Check. A wealth of safety equipment? Check. Some of these vehicles are capable of towing large loads. Others handle like tall sports sedans. But all have a third row. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to sit in it.
Today’s three-row luxury suvs are of two varieties — the truck-based traditional SUV and the car-based crossover suv. The Infiniti QX80 is one of the former. Based on the same chassis that props up the Nissan Armada SUV and the Nissan Titan full-size pickup truck, the QX80 does everything in a big way. It has a big engine — a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 — and a big 26-gallon fuel tank.
Inside, the QX80 is big, too. Passengers in the first two rows get absolutely first-class accommodations, and the third-row passengers fare reasonably well also, once they get to their seats. If you’re thinking of auto-crossing, pick another vehicle. But should you want to put highway asphalt behind you comfortably and quietly, the QX80 is your ride.
Photo by Infiniti
Some might say GMC isn’t a luxury brand, but the GMC Yukon Denali has a level of luxury and style that puts it squarely on this list. Like its Cadillac Escalade cousin and the competing Lincoln Navigator, the Yukon Denali comes in two wheelbase lengths — long and longer.
The Yukon Denali XL, the lengthier of the two, features a 6.2-liter V8 engine that offers 420 horsepower and mammoth amounts of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard, and a 10-speed automatic transmission helps keep fuel economy pretty reasonable for a vehicle that weighs just shy of three tons. For good measure, the Yukon will tow 7,900 pounds. The Yukon Denali’s interior features attractive materials and sensible design, and it’s a quiet, comfy place to be.
Photo by General Motors
The Tesla Model X might not be the most attractive of the luxury suvs, but its “falcon-wing” rear doors get it a lot of attention. Then there’s its all-electric powertrain, the vehicle’s most unique calling card. The performance-oriented P100D model can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds, making the Model X the quickest vehicle on our list. It also offers better bad-weather and off-pavement capabilities than you might imagine.
Depending on how you configure the second and third rows, the Model X can accommodate large loads in addition to a large number of people. With nearly 300-mile range, the Model X is a great choice for short trips but more challenging for longer ones. And fully equipped it costs $150,000.
Photo by Tesla
Land Rover offered extremely capable SUVs decades before most luxury brands entered the fray, and the Discovery capitalizes on all that hard-earned expertise. At the same time, it is highly luxurious and incredibly capable, both on and off the tarmac.
The current Discovery is curvaceous and distinctive, eschewing the utilitarian funkiness of previous generations. Engine choices include a supercharged gasoline-fueled V6 and a turbodiesel V6. The interior reeks of an English club room full of real wood and leather. Ride quality is excellent even when rock crawling, and the third row delivers a surprising amount of room for genuine adults.
Photo by Jaguar Land Rover
The Cadillac Escalade takes the three-row SUV in a significantly different direction than the car-based crossovers that have emerged from the luxury import brands. The Escalade is based on General Motors full-size truck platform, and it uses body-on-frame construction that dates back to the heyday of the American auto industry.
Now, whether that is a good thing or not is up to you, but one thing is certain, the Escalade’s cabin is quiet and comfortable. The third row isn’t an afterthought. And the big, torquey V8 engine pulls and pulls. With an eight-speed transmission contributing to the cause, fuel economy is actually pretty good. If you’re seeking to tow a serious load, the Escalade can fill the bill, too.
Photo by General Motors
The mid-size Acura MDX is so popular that it prompted Lexus to create a long-wheelbase three-row version of its RX just to compete with it. While the MDX isn’t as large as some of the SUVs on this list, it makes good use of the space it offers. And if you’re seeking a three-row vehicle that can actually deliver some true driving enjoyment, the MDX will cash that ticket. The high-tech V6 engine works well with the nine-speed gearbox, offering smooth acceleration and praiseworthy fuel economy.
One criticism leveled at Acura in the past is that its vehicles’ interiors looked too much like humble Hondas. These days, the Acura stylists have stepped up their game, but the interiors are more functional than plush. Handling is quite good, though the ride is on the firm side. It’s the price you pay for a little fun-to-drive.
Photo by Acura
Just when it looked like Lincoln had thrown in the towel on the full-size Navigator, it announced an all-new version that is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous generation. The Lincoln designers did an excellent job creating an exterior with presence, and the interior can be tailored to your (upscale) preferences with individual themes.
Underneath the Navigator and the long-wheelbase Navigator L variant is a full-size F-150 pickup truck. For those who believe size matters, that is a good thing, because the Navigator has major gravitas. Don’t look for a V8 engine under the hood. The single powertrain is a 450-horsepower 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy ratings for the rear-wheel drive Navigator is 16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined.
Photo by Lincoln
The Audi Q7 was new for the 2017 model year, but if you didn’t notice the change you can be excused. Audi’s crossover look has been so successful across the lineup, the brand hasn’t adjusted its formula much. One change for the current version is weight reduction, and that has benefits for handling, performance, and fuel economy.
The modern interior attains the typical Audi high level with understated lines, high-quality materials, and the brand’s Virtual Cockpit instrumentation scheme. Behind the steering wheel, the Q7 feels agile and easy to handle. The tradeoff is its interior isn’t as roomy as some others on this list. The third row is best reserved for children, pets, and ventriloquist dummies.
Photo by Audi
The Mercedes-Benz GLS is a crossover SUV based on the vaunted S-Class platform. With that as the baseline, it is hard to go wrong, and Mercedes-Benz has filled the vehicle with immense amounts of tech. The base model features a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that delivers 362 horsepower. Stepping up to the GLS 550 brings with it a 449-horsepower twin-turbo V8. All-wheel drive is standard issue, as is a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Inside, there is no doubt you and your six passengers are in a Mercedes-Benz. It has all the design fillips common to the Mercedes brand, and the infotainment array reminds you of a drive-in movie screen. The GLS isn’t as commodious as soon of the vehicles covered here, but it is gemlike.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
The mid-size XC90 blazed a trail in the three-row crossover segment with both its top-notch level of safety equipment and its innovative interior. When it comes to a choice of powertrains, the XC90 offers an embarrassment of riches. You can choose a turbocharged four-cylinder, a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, or a plug-in hybrid that uses the turbocharged and supercharged four. The last offers more than 400 combined horsepower.
At times, the XC90’s handling can make you forget you’re piloting a three-row SUV (though your spouse and children will probably be quick to remind you of that). With Volvo’s robust batch of safety equipment, one could make the case that the XC90 is the safest three-row SUV on the road.
Photo by Volvo