Labeling an automobile one of the best used mid-size SUVs is like saying the Rolling Stones is the best rock band of all time. While many will agree this is a bit of a stretch, when you consider the longevity the group has enjoyed as well its catalog of successful recordings, you do have to admit something’s there—even if you consider a different group the all-time greatest. Similarly, when we approached the compilation of this list of the best used mid-size SUVs; we looked at the entire history of a model, as opposed to merely considering its greatest hits. Consequently, what you’ll find here is a group of the best used mid-size SUVs with the distinction of having been consistently good since they were launched. This makes it difficult to go wrong when choosing among them, regardless of the model year.
Universally acclaimed by consumers and pundits alike, Acura’s MDX midsize luxury crossover suv typically seats seven, offers sporty driving characteristics, a luxurious interior treatment and a wealth of high-end comfort and convenience features. Easily one of the best used mid-size SUVs, regardless of the model year you choose, it’s pretty tough to go wrong with the Acura MDX. On the market since 2001, every iteration of the MDX has been refined, comfortable, and a good performer. Luxurious, powerful, and refined, a used Acura MDX is always a good choice for an active family, or anyone who has a need to transport up to seven individuals in relative comfort.
One of the smartest moves automakers made was basing crossover SUVs on the platforms of some of their most successful cars. In the case of the Audi Q5, much of its dynamic prowess is owed to its Audi A4 cousin. Introduced in 2009, the Audi Q5 beautifully bridges the realms of luxury and performance. The Audi Q5 goes down twisty roads with a great deal of confidence, and yet is capable of providing quiet, secure and exceptionally stable transportation on the highway. Around town, the Audi’s classy good looks draws admiring glances, and occupants revel in the joys of the Audi’s outstanding interior accommodations. Among the best used mid-size SUVs, the Audi Q5 is definitely a standout. The model has also been offered with diesel and hybrid powertrains.
Over the years, the Dodge brand has proven remarkably adept at straddling categories. On the market since 1998, the Dodge Durango is a perfect example of the marque’s prowess in this regard. A bit too small to be considered a full-size SUV, and yet a bit too large to be considered a true mid-size SUV, the Durango has always been something of a just right fit for a lot of people who need the capabilities of a large SUV, but don’t really want to suffer the encumbering constraints of an oversized vehicle, particularly in busy urban centers. The Dodge has always ridden smoothly, towed capably, and scored well in crash testing. While shopping for a used Dodge Durango you’ll run across rear-drive, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive models. As a result, the Dodge Durango is also quite competent in offroad situations when properly equipped.
Credited with igniting America’s love affair with the sport utility vehicle, the Ford Explorer was the first universally popular SUV. With a history going all the way back to 1991, the Ford has a broad range of models reflecting the changes in philosophy affecting the SUV category over the years. While the first Explorer was little more than an enclosed pickup truck with back seats…okay…we’ll admit this is something of an oversimplification. However, the early Ford Explorers did use body on frame construction like many pickup trucks still do to this day. Meanwhile, the more contemporary Ford Explorer models are thoroughly sophisticated crossover SUVs with the driving manners, comfort, conveniences and equipment of a really nice car—as this is what buyers have come to prefer as the SUV became more mainstream.
Honda’s Pilot three-row crossover SUV debuted in 2003 to a great deal of acclaim. The model has always offered V6 power with strong fuel economy, spacious interiors, and the ability to accommodate up to eight passengers (although seven is more typical). One of the best things about buying a used Honda Pilot is the way the company has always packaged the model in terms of its optional features. By and large, Honda has always presented the Pilot with set groups of trim levels, as opposed to a plethora of a la carte optional features. For the record, though, if you’re looking for an opulently palatial interior treatment, you’ll likely be better off considering a different vehicle. While nicely finished with quality evident throughout, the Honda’s accommodations are more on the straightforward side.
Dubbed the “Bionic Cheetah” when it was launched back in 2003, the Infiniti QX70 (then known as the Infiniti FX45 and FX35) has always been one of the most agile and sporty crossover sport utility vehicles on the market. Employing Infiniti’s front mid-ship platform, the mid-size Infiniti crossover has the bulk of its engine mounted behind the front wheels, moving the center of gravity closer to the middle of the vehicle. This allows the midsize crossover to change directions with considerably more aplomb. Combined with the powerful engines the Infiniti engineering department prescribed for the vehicles, (both a V8 and V6) the Infiniti FX models have always touted outstanding acceleration and speed to go with their enhanced agility. The result being few crossover SUVs drive with the immediacy and dynamism of the Infiniti.
In compilations such as this one, the Jeep Grand Cherokee gets all sorts of love, while the “lowly” regular Jeep Cherokee is left hanging. Well, we’re here to tell you #JeepCherokeeMatters. First of all, the Jeep Cherokee was one of the first SUVs to come to market. The Grand Cherokee started life as a trim package of the Cherokee lineup, and for most of the model’s lifetime, it can be argued this remained the case. The original Jeep Cherokee debuted back in 1984, making it definitely one of the elders of the mid-size SUV segment. Further, the Jeep Cherokee presaged a trend rampant in the industry today; the Cherokee was the first rugged SUV to go with a unibody platform, as opposed to the body on frame construction typical of such models in the early years.
Interestingly, while we just heaped mountains of praise upon the Jeep Cherokee for starting life with unibody construction, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Kia Sorento when it launched was the fact that it rode on a body on frame platform. This was somewhat unexpected from an Asian crossover, and it endowed the Sorento with towing capabilities surpassing many of its counterparts from the other side of the Pacific. The platform also made it particularly effective as an off-road vehicle. If you’re looking for an inexpensive SUV with those capabilities, the early Sorento models can nicely fill the bill—for around $3000 to $5000 dollars. Newer Sorento models offer outstanding spaciousness, significant warranty coverage, and remarkable maneuverability for a seven-passenger crossover SUV.
Photo by Kia
Easily one of the best used mid-size SUVs, the Mazda CX-9 three-row seven-passenger crossover goes down the road like a car half its size. Since the model’s introduction back in 2007, reviewers have continually praised its carlike driving position, nimble handling, wide opening doors, excellent build quality, and attractive interior treatment. Ironically, this is the sort of praise more typically heaped upon a minivan. This, in large part, is what earns the Mazda CX-9 its place on the list of the best used mid-size SUVs. Offering a truly spacious passenger compartment, and a strong roster of both standard and optional features, the Mazda CX-9, unlike many of its competitors, has always offered a third row seat capable of actually accommodating full-size adults.
The 2001 Toyota Highlander was a groundbreaking proposition when it was introduced. While the idea of taking the underpinnings of a successful car and grafting the body of a sport utility vehicle onto it is now pretty routine, it was a big deal back in the first year of the 21st century. Toyota wisely pressed its revered Camry’s platform into service as the basis of the Highlander, instantly endowing the model with the attributes of its perennially best-selling mid-size sedan cousin. As a result, the Toyota Highlander came out of the gate boasting outstanding comfort, decided civility, terrific fuel economy, easy ingress and egress, as well as commendable crash test scores. As an entry on this list of the best used mid-size SUVs, the Toyota Highlander is arguably the most competitive model out there. Oh, BTW, there are also used hybrid Highlanders on offer as well.