It's hard to know what criteria to use when judging which SUVs have the best cargo space. Is it more useful to have a sport utility vehicle that is a champion at hauling as much gear as possible with the rear rows folded over, or is it preferable to maximize the amount of cargo that can be stored with a full load of passengers inside? Although most of the time we focus on the former figure, we thought it would be instructive to put together a list of SUVs that can carry a ton while still bringing along a full complement of passengers. Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best SUV cargo space contenders out there.
10 Best SUV Cargo Space Leaders
1) 2016 Ford Expedition EL — 42.6 cubic feet
The 2016 Ford Expedition, and its luxury twin the Lincoln Navigator L, are essentially the Blue Oval's answer to the Suburban's fullsize SUV market dominance. Like its Chevrolet rival, the Ford Expedition EL features a long wheelbase derived from a pickup truck platform (in this case, the best-selling Ford F-150). With the mammoth Excursion now departed from the Ford lineup, the Expedition EL steps in as the largest SUV available from the brand, and as such its 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats occupied is welcomed with open arms by large families and anyone who doesn't want to drive a fullsize van around town.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2) 2016 Chevrolet Suburban — 38.9 cubic feet
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban - and the two other GM vehicles that share its platform, the GMC Yukon XL and the Cadillac Escalade ESV - are the very definition of fullsize cargo mules. The extended wheelbase found with this trio of fullsize SUVs gives them the ability to swallow copious amounts of luggage even with all 3 rows filled up with adult passengers. Behind the Suburban's third row, it's possible to stuff 38.9 cubic feet of suitcases, dog food, hockey bags, or anything else that might fit into the spot between the seat back and the cargo hatch.
Photo Credit: General Motors
3) 2016 Chevrolet Traverse — 24.4 cubic feet
The 2016 Chevrolet Traverse is another entry from General Motors that comes with not one, but two additional platform mates (the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave). Unlike the Suburban and its GMC and Cadillac siblings, however, there are a few tweaks when looking at the internal packaging of each of these 8-passenger fullsize SUVs that change their full-up cargo capacity. While the Chevrolet Traverse is capable of handling up to 24.4 cubic feet of gear behind its rearmost row, the Acadia cuts that number by 0.3 cubic feet, and the Enclave by 1.1 cubic feet. Small margins, to be sure, but enough to make a difference on our list.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hunting
4) 2016 Ford Explorer — 21 cubic feet
The 7-passenger 2016 Ford Explorer shares its underpinnings with the Ford Flex, which also offers the ability to handle as many as seven occupants at a time. Like the Traverse, however, a subtle change in how the rear of the Explorer has been assembled allows it to handle 21 cubic feet of cargo with the back seat in place, whereas the squared-off Flex can "only" take in 20 cubic feet.
Photo Credit: Lincoln
5) 2016 Lincoln MKT — 17.9 cubic feet
A distinctive shape makes the 2016 Lincoln MKT a poor choice for families who’d need to seat adults in the third row, as the large crossover SUV’s distinctive roofline seriously compromises headspace. Oddly enough, though, it appears not to be a problem when it comes to the vehicle’s cargo area. The Lincoln MKT can accommodate 17.9 cubic feet of gear behind the third row, making it a solid contender for hauling — provided, of course, that the back seat can be reserved for kids.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
6) 2016 Dodge Durango —17.2 cubic feet
The 2016 Dodge Durango is a bit of an outlier on this list since its rear-wheel drive, V8 powered design would seem to fit in better with the Suburban and the Expedition EL than the Pilot and the Explorer. Truth be told, the Dodge Durango is a very smooth-driving SUV that eschews the body-on-frame construction of past models in favor of its current design. Unfortunately, while that might translate into greater on-road comfort, it has also eaten into the SUV's cargo space, with 17.2 cubic feet available behind the third row - a respectable, but not class-leading number.
Photo Credit: Infiniti
7) 2016 Infiniti QX80 — 16.6 cubic feet
The 2016 Infiniti QX80 is another surprise at this stage of our best SUV cargo space list. The QX80 is still big and intimidating on the outside, but cargo space in recent years has dropped down to 16.6 cubic feet, a figure which is much closer to parity with a midsize sedan than, say, the Cadillac Escalade. The new, redesigned 2017 Nissan Armada isn’t yet available, but as of this redesign, it’s again based on the same platform as the QX80 and has also found its cargo capacity pared down to 16.6 cubic feet.
Photo Credit: Honda
8) 2016 Honda Pilot — 16.5 cubic feet
The 2016 Honda Pilot might not look as imposing as some of the other 3-row SUVs on this list, but it does have a cargo area and room for eight passengers. The fullsize Honda Pilot was fully redesigned this year, which means its distinctive boxy shape has gone by the wayside, and along with it, about 1.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity, bringing the space behind the rear row down to 16.5 cubic feet. True, that should still be enough for most trips. Of course, you'll have to do some stacking, and the rearview mirror will probably not be an option during the drive, but creative packing demands a few sacrifices.
9) 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser — 16.1 cubic feet
The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser - aside from being the most expensive vehicle wearing a Toyota badge - is known for its off-road prowess, as well as its ability to seat as many as seven people while exploring the great unknown. An unusual design decision has the Toyota Land Cruiser's rearmost row of accommodations descending from the side of the cargo compartment, which means that space is a bit more limited than one might expect. 16.1 cubic feet of storage is useful, but if you plan to go on safari with a full crew complement, you are probably going to have to make use of some clever roof-rack solutions.
10) 2016 Nissan Pathfinder — 16 cubic feet
The 2016 Nissan Pathfinder is a fullsize SUV in the same vein as the Chevrolet Traverse, and visually it looks to be about the same size. When it comes to cargo space, however, the Nissan Pathfinder slides in just a tick under the Toyota Land Cruiser's rating with 16 cubic feet of space usable between its tailgate and its rearmost row. With a healthy tow rating of 5,000 lbs, it looks like towing a trailer is the best option if you have to stuff this SUV full of people and then hit the road for more than a few days.