When it comes to defining the best value SUVs available today, the easy part is picking the SUVs. After all, there aren’t that many around anymore. Because most folks now prefer the more car-like ownership experience provided by crossovers, with their gentler handling and generally better EPA scores, the number of actual mainstream sport utilities—which are supported by body-on-frame construction—is barely enough to fill out a baseball team. Ranking the roster based on “value” is a bit trickier, since different people put their value on different things. With that in mind, the SUVs here are listed according to MSRP, starting with…
10 Best Value SUVs
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Jeep Wrangler
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is an easy choice to lead off our list of best value SUVs: It’s the least expensive body-on-frame vehicle currently on the market, yet it offers some of the highest levels of off-road performance. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that the entry-level Wrangler Sport also maintains a modest amount of standard equipment. So, while its $23,895 MSRP covers a standard V6 engine with the brand’s Command-Trac shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive technology, along with a soft top for open-air trail riding, it doesn’t cover air conditioning or power windows and door locks. That said, some interesting amenities are standard, such as an eight-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls. The Wrangler Sport S then adds the missing conveniences—and much more—for $26,895. Which is still nearly $7,000 less than for the least-expensive non-Jeep suv. Also notable are the four Wrangler special editions for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Jeep
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Despite the benefits found in the Wrangler, it does have one shortcoming for some customers: its length. The Wrangler is a two-door vehicle that’s 164.3 inches long—more than a foot shorter than a Honda Civic Coupe. As a result, it’s the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that sets the pace for best value SUVs for families. The Unlimited edition is 20-some inches longer than the regular Wrangler, with two extra doors, 1.6 inches of extra rear-seat legroom and a nice boost in cargo space. With rear seat backs up, the Unlimited has 31.5 cubic feet of rear storage, compared to the 12.8 in the Wrangler proper, and seats down, the four-door version has a 15-cubic-foot advantage and a total of 70.6 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s also worth noting that the Wrangler Unlimited follows the Wrangler’s approach to standard content, with an MSRP of $27,695 for the no-frills Sport model.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota 4Runner
The Wrangler duo does show relatively low pricing, yet even the Unlimited model may be small for some buyers, since the vehicle itself is mid-way between compact and midsized in length. The only one of the best value SUVs with a traditional midsize presence—and indeed, the only one left on the market—is the 2016 Toyota 4Runner. The sticker price here is $33,810, and though that’s a healthy step up from the Jeeps, the 4Runner comes standard with comforts like a dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and an Entune multimedia bundle. With that latter technology on board, owners enjoy a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth technology, app-based navigation and eight audio speakers. But the 4Runner hasn’t forgotten it's an SUV, either, and it also boasts a standard 4.0-liter, 270-horsepower V6 engine, an automatic limited-slip differential and a 5,000-lb. towing maximum.
Photo Credit: Nissan USA
2015 Nissan Armada
If you like your best value SUVs to be strictly focused on value, and not necessarily pricing, your ship has come in with the 2015 Nissan Armada. Yes, the 2015 model. Here’s the deal: Due to a decision by Nissan, the Armada will skip the 2016 model year entirely, and an all-new 2017 version will go on sale in this summer. That’s a great situation for shoppers, as negotiating should be easier with dealerships looking to clear out 2015 inventory. And that’s on top of the lowest MSRP of any full-size, three-row SUV in the country: $38,510. Further, even with the next-gen Armada on the horizon, the previous-generation lineup provides a full complement of SUV-style capability, including a tow rating of up to 9,000 lbs., as well as seating for up to eight and some of the brand’s most luxurious interior appointments furnished by the Platinum and Platinum Reserve trims.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Sequoia
Once you move up to best value SUVs such as the 2016 Toyota Sequoia, which starts at $44,965, value comes from getting an increasing amount of standard equipment for your price of admission. For example, the full-size Sequoia comes right out of the box with an enhanced Entune infotainment system that features the Scout GPS Link for app-based navigation, a high-res 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free mode for compatible iPhones and an audio system with eight speakers. The Sequoia is family-friendly, too, especially for larger families. Seating for eight is standard, as are easy-clean seating surfaces and up to 120.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Folks can also order a rear-seat entertainment setup with a 9-inch LCD screen and a separate audio system—with headphones—for back-seat passengers. Naturally, a big beast like this serves up plenty of brute force; the Sequoia relies on a 381-horsepower “iForce” V8 for that.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Expedition
Ford puts a lot of value on efficient performance, which is why Blue Oval engineers put an EcoBoost engine in the automaker’s full-size SUV. No other best value SUVs can furnish that kind of turbocharged powerplant, and for the 2016 Ford Expedition, that means a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft of torque. It’s enough for 9,200 lbs. worth of pulling power, as well as relatively robust fuel economy grades of 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. Now, those aren’t exactly fuel-sipping numbers, but they do give the Expedition EPA advantages of 3 mpg/5 mpg/3 mpg versus its Toyota competitor. Another competitive edge for Ford is the Expedition’s next-generation Sync 3 infotainment technology, and Ford tops it all off with a long-wheelbase model with more than 130 cubic feet of storage.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Tahoe
The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe takes us further into premium territory, staking out its place among the best value SUVs with a cost of $47,000. It’s a lot of cash, but you also get a lot of Tahoe. In fact, because the vehicle stretches 204 inches in length and supplies three-across seating in all three rows, the Tahoe can fit up to nine occupants (including the driver). There’s only 15.3 cubic feet of rear storage with all seats filled, but Chevy’s full-size SUV can swallow nearly 95 cubic feet of gear with the back rows folded. The Tahoe also leverages its body-on-frame construction for a top trailer rating of 8,600 lbs. and a peak payload of 1,760 lbs. All work and no play would make for a rather dull Tahoe, so owners welcome a newly standard infotainment system for 2016, bolstered by OnStar’s 4G LTE service and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 GMC Yukon
The same platform that underpins the Tahoe also can be found on other best value SUVs from General Motors, such as the 2016 GMC Yukon. The Yukon puts a Professional Grade spin on the full-size sport utility segment, complete with an available ultra-lux Denali edition, and this is reflected in the vehicle’s MSRP of $48,315. Again, that’s not cheap, yet the Yukon registers pretty highly on the old “you get what you pay for” meter. For instance, the GMC’s full-size SUV features the same new infotainment technology as the Tahoe, along with standard content like automatic tri-zone climate control, a rear-vision camera system and a convenient capless fuel-fill system. As for the Yukon Denali, it’s premium price opens at $63,325, but customers cross-shopping SUVs from the luxury brands will be impressed at what GMC gives them at that price: a hands-free liftgate, 20-inch wheels, heated and cooled leather front seats, and more.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Suburban
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban—stickered from $49,600—is essentially a supersized Chevy Tahoe that adds 20 inches in length over its already full-sized sibling. That makes it the biggest of the best value SUVs, backed by a length of 224.4 inches—almost 19 feet. The growth includes 14 inches in the wheelbase, 24 cubic feet in the rear cargo hold and 26.4 cubic feet in total cargo space; all told the Suburban can serve up 121.1 cubic feet of storage space behind the first row. The Suburban and Tahoe are similar in most other respects, from available nine-place seating to Chevy’s new 8-inch infotainment system and an updated Driver Alert package. Also optional for the Tahoe, the package is expanded for 2016 to include forward collision alert, power-adjustable pedals and GM’s Safety Alert seat.
Photo Credit: Lexus
2016 Lexus GX
Can you spend $50,780 but still end up buying one of the industry’s best value SUVs? You can if you purchase a 2016 Lexus GX. That’s because you’re getting Lexus levels of luxury, like 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a powered moonroof, premium nine-speaker audio and full-time four-wheel drive. Nor is that merely some lightweight setup. Instead, the GX supplies off-road hardware such as an electronically controlled transfer case and a sophisticated, torque-sensing limited-slip differential designed to optimize traction in all driving conditions. Needless to say, if you want to combine that kind of rugged capability—and a 6,500-lb. tow rating—with additional Lexus options, you can. In the mix: everything from a 330-watt Mark Levinson sound system to cutting-edge occupant-protection technologies.