There was a time when sport-utility vehicles were best known for their rugged capabilities, but today, the best SUVs for highway driving are just as well suited for comfortable long-range cruising. Consider: Not only do the current crossovers and SUVs provide increasingly car-like handling, they also serve up the technologies and luxuries that can transform even the most mundane road trip into a serene life experience. Meanwhile, for more practical drivers, who may prefer to maximize highway mileage, there are high-efficiency choices that can post some relatively impressive fuel-economy ratings.
10 of the Best SUVs for Highway Driving
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Once you hit the highway in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee, you’ve got more than 730 miles of smooth sailing ahead of you—provided you configure the Jeep brand’s flagship with its available 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. That’s because this turbocharged engine delivers both EPA grades of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined and a 24.6-gallon fuel tank. Needless to say, that kind of range firmly establishes the Grand Cherokee as one of the best SUVs for highway driving, although its premium powertrain isn’t the only freeway-friendly feature it offers. Indeed, when the EcoDiesel powerplant is nestled within the engine bay of the Grand Cherokee Summit, owners also enjoy a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon audio system and ultra-lux “Natura-Plus” leather seating with a heated and ventilated front row. Mobile wi-fi and a Blu-Ray-capable rear-seat entertainment system are available as well to keep passengers happy on the highway.
Yes, the 2016 Volvo XC90 offers a cornucopia of cutting-edge safety features, which is certainly important if you’re shopping for one of the best SUVs for highway driving. But so is comfort, and the XC90 has plenty of that, too. In fact, its sophisticated front seats offer a special ergonomic design that was created to follow the shape of the human spine, while also offering heating, ventilation, power seat-cushion extensions, power-adjustable side bolsters and supple Nappa leather surfaces. Second and third rows further provide individualized, high-comfort seating for five more passengers, yet also fold individually for extra interior versatility. Then, to keep everyone entertained, this Sino-Swedish SUV can supply a 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system and the Sensus Connect “infotainment hub,” the latter of which includes access to a 12.1-inch touchscreen, navigation and an array of in-car apps. An upcoming plug-in hybrid powertrain also promises impressive fuel efficiency numbers.
Mercedes is reinventing its M-Class midsize SUV for the new model year, and the result is the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE. And though much has changed beyond the name, this is still one of the top suvs for highway driving, thanks in part to an overall travel range of more than 713 miles: The GLE300d 4Matic model combines a 24.6-gallon fuel tank and an EPA rating of 29 mpg highway with its 2.1-liter twin-turbo diesel engine. Moreover, despite that relatively modest displacement, that unit does deliver 201 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. of torque and a maximum tow rating of 6,600 lbs. Also, because that kind of long-distance driving can pose potential issues with driver drowsiness, the GLE furnishes an available “Attention Assist” system. This travel-oriented tech can track some 70 different facets of the driving process to detect and alert the driver to possibly problematic vehicle operation.
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 leverages some of its segment’s highest fuel-economy scores in a bid to be named among the best SUVs for highway road trips. The bottom line here: Outfitted with a standard 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine and six-speed manual transmission, the CX-5 sees EPA ratings of 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway/29 mpg combined. Mazda additionally made a number of upgrades to the vehicle for 2016, many of which are geared toward a more rewarding driving experience. For example, seating has been enhanced for both the first and second rows, and engineers also revised the suspension for a more polished ride and increased sound insulation to reduce intrusive road noise. The brand’s i-Activsense safety measures build on those benefits with highway helpers such as Mazda Radar Cruise Control and a blind-spot monitor, all complemented by an available MazdaConnect infotainment setup with voice recognition, automatic emergency notification and Bose CenterPoint audio.
Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology is well known for its ability to produce superior power ratings while still maintaining credible fuel-economy performance. It’s a combination that’s ideal for the best highway SUVs, but engineers stretched ye olde envelope with the 2016 Lincoln MKX. The all-new crossover showcases a recent addition to the family, and that 2.7-liter unit is being touted as the “quietest EcoBoost V-6 ever.” That means owners—and occupants—of the premium midsize entry will be able to better enjoy the vehicle’s exclusive Revel audio system. Actually, two such setups are offered, highlighted by a 19-speaker system with a 20-channel amplifier, Clari-Fi digital processing and QuantumLogic surround sound. On the other hand, that EcoBoost engine also is good for 335 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque, so getting up to highway speed and staying there is a breeze. Another long-haul luxury: available 22-way power-adjustable front seats with Active Motion massage functionality.
As one of the nation’s top-selling three-row crossovers, the 2015 Toyota Highlander clearly satisfies customer needs in a lot of ways, and that includes as one of the top suvs for highway driving. After all, the Highlander goes far beyond the basics to offer two particularly helpful tools for highway travel: Driver Easy Speak and a hybrid powertrain. The former is offered throughout the lineup and allows the driver to broadcast his or her voice over the vehicle’s audio speakers, ensuring he or she can be heard in the back two rows. As for the Highlander hybrid model, it raises highway fuel-efficiency results to 28 mpg—with four-wheel drive and complemented by EPA scores of 27 mpg city/28 mpg combined. Further helping to aid with highway travel is an available rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray compatibility, a 9-inch display, RCA jacks and two wireless headphones.
Only a handful of today’s front-crash prevention technologies have earned perfect scores from the IIHS, but they include the camera-based Eyesight system that’s available on the 2016 Subaru Forester (and other members of the brand’s lineup). It’s a notable advantage among the best crossovers for highway driving, since it offers superior levels of passenger protection at a relatively affordable cost. The setup welcomes new functionality for 2016 as well, courtesy of Steering-Responsive Fog Lights that aim illumination in the same direction in which the Forester is turning. EyeSight features from 2015 also carry on, serving up adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, pre-collision braking and more. Similarly, Subaru’s StarLink infotainment technologies, introduced for the Forester last year with a 7-inch touchscreen, have been bolstered by an available safety and security package that includes SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, automatic collision notification and diagnostic alerts.
It may be a familiar refrain by now, but due to the nearly inimitable advantages of 4G LTE connectivity and a mobile wi-fi hotspot, the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox has to be considered one of the best crossovers for driving on the highway. Passengers, of course, will be able to connect their tablets and other digital devices to the Internet, to go online while on the go, and drivers benefit from improved connectivity speed and reliability for the vehicle’s MyLink infotainment system. It’s also worth pointing out that the Equinox’s standard 2.4-liter engine has been rated at 32 mpg in highway driving, so that owners can up to 489 miles of range on a single tank of gas. Finally, shoppers should note that even the entry-level Equinox will be a more comfortable travel companion for 2016, as it adds Bluetooth calling, a rearview camera and improved interior fabrics.
GMC Yukon XL
At this stage, purists might be wondering if there are going to be any SUVs among the best SUVs for highway driving. Well, that brings us to the 2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali, since if we’re going to pick a true body-on-frame sport utility, we may as well go all-in with a big behemoth like this one. The Yukon XL is almost 19 feet worth of truck, with an occupancy limit of nine and more than 121 cubic feet of total cargo space, and the Denali moniker means it’s also stuffed with upscale amenities—not the least of which is OnStar’s 4G LTE connectivity and mobile wi-fi hotspot. Now, however, that technology will be paired with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to make sure the 2016 Yukon Denali XL has the latest in smartphone-integration capabilities. The safety department also pitches in with highway safety enhancers like available lane-keeping and automatic high beams.
Photo Credit: Audi Media Services
Mobile wi-fi and 4G LTE connectivity may be rare in the mainstream, but numerous premium vehicles come with that technology, like the 2016 Audi Q7. That—plus the Q7’s typically Audi-esque levels of luxury, safety and performance—would no doubt attract customers shopping for the best highway SUVs, but the 2016 Q7 also boasts a nice little bonus: a rear-seat entertainment system that’s built around individual Audi Android tablets that can be mounted in the front-seat headrests. Other highlights worth calling out for highway drivers include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, for advanced smartphone integration, along with Bang & Olufsen audio and safety measures such as a new adaptive cruise-control technology with traffic-jam assistance. Long-distance drivers also can look forward to a new turbodiesel engine and diesel-derived plug-in hybrid to join the next generation of Q7 SUVs, with those powertrains likely to provide superior freeway fuel-efficiency.