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The Best Large SUVs

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
July 30, 2015
5 min. Reading Time

The best large SUV category is split between traditional truck-based models with huge towing capacities and crossover models designed to provide a quiet ride and easy handling—while still managing to transport eight or more people, carry huge amounts of cargo, or deliver outsized towing capacity. Some even manage to pull off all three. Without question, the best large SUV category is indeed a varied field of highly capable automobiles.

Acura MDX

Going into the 2016 model year, the Acura MDX gets a nine-speed automatic transmission, the latest driver’s aids and a lighter and more responsive all-wheel drive system. The interior rearview mirror is frameless now, and Siri Eyes Free voice controls for iPhone is standard equipment for every MDX trim. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 good for 290 horsepower and 267 ft-lbs of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is offered as an option for the athletic three-row Acura MDX. Maximum cargo capacity is 90.9 cubic feet. When properly equipped, the 2016 Acura MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Pricing starts at $42,865.


Cadillac Escalade/Escalade ESV

Routinely ranked in the best large SUV club, Cadillac’s Escalade is America’s most luxurious SUV. With styling reminiscent of the Presidential limousine, the contemporary Escalade seats up to eight, is exceptionally quiet, and more handsomely styled than ever before. The 2016 Cadillac Escalade also offers a power-operated third row seat capable of folding flat into the floor. Power comes from a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and rear drive are standard; all-wheel drive is an option. Escalade is rated to tow up to 8,300 pounds. Maximum cargo capacity is 94.2 cubic feet. Pricing starts at $72,970.


Chevrolet Suburban

A best large SUV seldom gets any larger than the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban (and its GMC Yukon XL sibling). We’re talking seating for up to nine people, huge cargo capacity, and astonishing towing capability in addition to a quiet and smooth ride on the highway. Power comes from a 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is offered as an option. Go for the Max Trailering package and you’ll get an air suspension system and load leveling to give the Suburban (and the Yukon) the ability to tow up to 8,300 pounds. Maximum cargo capacity is 121.1 cubic feet. Pricing starts at $49,000.


Chevrolet Traverse

The beauty of the 2016 Chevrolet Traverse (as well as its GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave siblings) is you get the cargo capacity and people carrying ability of the largest of the best large SUV models in an easily manageable package. The Traverse drives more like a car than a sport utility vehicle, without sacrificing three rows of seating and cargo capacity. Excellent crash test scores, a smooth ride, and a quiet interior lend the Traverse even more cachet as family transportation par excellence. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 good for 281 horsepower and 266 ft-lbs of torque. With the optional dual exhaust system output is raised to 288 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is offered as an option. Pricing starts at $31,205.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Ford Expedition

Ford’s expertise in turbocharging has lead to an interesting development. The marque’s best large SUV makes do without the traditional V8 engine once considered de rigueur for this category. Instead, the eight-passenger Expedition goes with a 365-horespower 3.5-liter V6 with 420 ft-lbs of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard. All-wheel drive is optional. In case the 420 ft-lb torque figure didn’t impress you, consider this; the 2016 Ford Expedition is rated to tow some 9,200 pounds—making it the most tow-capable of the best large SUVs. But wait, it gets even better. Thanks in part to the fold-flat third row; the big Ford suv boasts a maximum of 130.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity to boot. Pricing starts at $45,095.

 Photo by Ford

Photo by Ford

Land Rover Range Rover

The acknowledged royalty in the best large SUV category, Land Rover’s Range Rover enjoys a reputation unsurpassed by any other product in its class. Outfitted with the finest interior materials available, the Range Rover SUV is opulence personified. Smooth, quiet and fast on the highway, the Range Rover is also one of the most capable off road machines humankind has ever devised. This large SUV will, in fact, do it all. Power comes from a choice of two engines. The base powerplant is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque. The supercharged 5.0-liter V8 makes 510 horsepower and 461 ft-lbs of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard, as is an eight-speed automatic transmission. Maximum cargo capacity is 82.8 cubic feet for the long wheelbase Range Rover—71.7 in the standard model. Max tow rating is 7,716 pounds. Pricing starts at $83,495.


Lincoln Navigator

America’s original luxury SUV, the Lincoln Navigator was treated to a makeover for the 2015 model year. Among the changes were new front and rear styling components, a revised interior treatment, and the elimination of the traditional V8 engine. The Navigator’s eight-passenger capability remained intact. Other plusses include a long wheelbase version offering even more legroom for third-row passengers. Luxury features abound in Ford’s flagship SUV. Touchscreen electronics with customizable instrumentation, adaptive suspension, and power adjustable pedals are among the Navigator’s efforts to coddle its occupants. Power for the 2016 Lincoln Navigator comes from a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 380 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. Lincoln’s best large SUV will tow up to 9,000 pounds. Pricing starts at $63,090.


Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

Mercedes-Benz’s best large SUV seats seven and is more than up to the task of dealing with a wide range of roads and conditions. As you’d expect from a company whose tagline is “The Best Or Nothing,” all componentry, fit, and finish are first class, as is the list of standard features. Power comes from a choice of four engines. The diesel is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 240 horsepower and 455 ft-lbs of torque; there’s also a 3.0-liter turbocharged gasoline-fired V6 good for 362 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque. The 4.6-liter turbocharged V8 makes 429 horsepower and 516 ft-lbs of torque, while the 5.5-liter twin turbocharged V8 makes 550 horsepower and 560 ft-lbs. All use seven-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive. Total cargo capacity is 93.8 cubic feet while the maximum tow rating is 7,500 pounds. Pricing starts at $63,600.

Note: Mercedes-Benz revised their nomenclature begining with the 2015 model year, and the GL-Class will henceforth be badged as the GLS-class. 


Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX570

While not absolutely identical, they are close enough to be covered in the same entry. Built on the same platform, both the Toyota and the Lexus are equally capable of mastering soccer fields and boulder fields. Among their benefits, the tech underpinnings of Toyota’s best large SUV duo are decidedly old school. When it comes to maintenance costs, this has proven more than advantageous. Power for the Lexus comes from a 5.7-liter V8 with 383 horsepower and 403 ft-lbs of torque (the Toyota gives up two horsepower and two ft-lbs of torque to the Lexus with the same displacement). Their four-wheel drive powertrains are tied together with a six-speed automatic transmission. Max towing capacity is 8,200 pounds, while total cargo capacity is 82 cubic feet. Pricing starts at $80,155 for the Toyota, and $83,180 for the Lexus.


Toyota Sequoia

With seating for eight, a cavernous interior, true off road capability, and good power, the 2016 Toyota Sequoia may well be the ultimate family vacation transportation device. Power comes from a 5.7-liter V8 good for 381 horsepower and 401 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. A four-wheel drive system with low-range gearing and a limited-slip center differential is optional. We’ll be the first to admit, given the Sequoia’s rather lengthy time on the market without an update, its sell-by date is rapidly approaching. Still, though, the big Toyota’s goodness endures nonetheless. Maximum towing capacity is rated at 7,400 pounds and the 2016 Toyota Sequoia boasts 120 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. Pricing starts at $44,395.



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