Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2019. It has recently been updated with new information.
Today is the summer solstice, which means road trip season is officially here. Being that it’s the first day of summer, you’ll want to get your vehicle ready for that epic trip you’ve been waiting to take. Don’t have a vehicle yet? We’ve got some we can recommend. An SUV is a good choice for road trips because they’re supremely versatile. Need to fit a couple weeks’ worth of luggage? No problem. Got friends tagging along, too? With the right sport ute, that’s also not a problem. Now that SUVs’ fuel economy numbers have begun to catch up to conventional cars, they’re an even more compelling choice. Here are 15 of the best SUVs for your summer road trip.
Don’t let the Honda CR-V’s exterior dimensions fool you because inside there’s more space than you’d expect. Clever packaging, solid ride and handling, lots of driver assistance tech, and great fuel economy with the available 1.5-liter turbo-four (28/34 mpg city/highway in front-drive guise or 27/33 mpg with all-wheel drive) make the Honda CR-V a well-rounded package that’s happy in the city or on the open road.
The Subaru Outback was one of the first crossovers when it arrived in the 1990s as a lifted Legacy wagon. Fast forward to the present and it’s now Subaru’s best-selling model thanks to its standard all-wheel-drive system, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and a spacious interior that can accommodate a lot of gear and seat five people. The Subaru Outback also has roof rails that feature integrated racks, adding to its practicality. Expect the all-new 2020 model to be just as practical; this time with an available turbo engine.
Distinctively Swedish inside and out, the Volvo XC90 masterfully blends luxury and practicality. The XC90 offers three rows of seating, and its well-appointed interior easily accommodates five passengers and their gear—or seven, in a pinch. There’s also a 400-hp plug-in hybrid variant that offers you extra speed and efficiency without sacrificing practicality thanks to the lithium-ion battery being positioned in the center tunnel.
Recently refreshed, the Honda Pilot features smart interior packaging, making it highly flexible. From a center console that can fit a purse to second- and third-row seats that fold flat, the Pilot has a solution for everything from carrying big bulky items to storing your devices. If you have kids that need their space, the available second-row captain’s chairs should help prevent fights from breaking out in the backseats. There’s also an available rear entertainment system to pacify rear passengers on long stretches of highway.
Big, imposing, and boxy, the Kia Telluride hides a road-trip-worthy interior behind its rugged façade. Its premium-looking cabin offers seating for up to eight passengers and lots of cargo space with the second and third rows folded. Plus, with an 18.8-gallon fuel tank and up to 26 mpg on the highway (in FWD trim), it’s likely you’ll stop for a snack or restroom break before you have to fill up.
The Ford Expedition won our last full-size SUV comparison test because it offers plenty of power, a spacious interior, a comfortable ride, and surprising efficiency for its size. In addition, the full-size Ford offers exceptional off-road capability that helps put it at the top of its segment. Need more space than the standard-wheelbase Expedition? Ford also offers the Expedition Max, which has more cargo space behind the third row.
The Chevrolet Traverse is a large three-row crossover, and it’s also smartly packaged. With its 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6, the Traverse has plenty of power to get you where you need to go. Despite its size, the Traverse handles surprisingly well and offers a comfortable ride even with the optional 20-inch alloy wheels.
It may be old and not very fuel-efficient, but the Toyota 4Runner remains a solid all-terrain SUV that’s popular for venturing off the beaten path. Opt for the five-seat variant for the best combination of cargo capacity and passenger space. If your road trip takes you through some rugged country, you may want to consider the TRD models.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee blends on- and off-road capability beautifully, making it the perfect rig for adventurers who like to get down and dirty on their road trips. Jeep offers the Grand Cherokee in a wide range of variants, including the 707-hp Trackhawk model. Want the most torque and range? Higher trims like the Overland, Trailhawk, and Summit can be had with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that generates 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A 24.6-gallon fuel tank should help the diesel-powered Grand Cherokee go farther than its gas-powered siblings between fill ups.
The BMW X7 is the largest model from the Bavarian brand to date, and it’s got nostrils to match. But huge-grille jokes aside, the X7 is a big SUV with seating for six or seven passengers. Opt for the second-row bucket seats to pamper your friends and family in the X7’s beautifully trimmed cabin.
Although there’s a new generation coming before the end of the year, the current-generation Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class remains a solid cruiser for long drives. Available in multiple flavors, including a potent 577-hp AMG variant, the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class is right at home cruising on the highway and coddling its occupants in luxury. Keep it to five passengers on road trips though, as the third row is small and you lose nearly all of your cargo space with all seats occupied.
One of the best-selling midsize crossovers today, the Acura MDX drives smaller than it actually is and handles surprisingly well. We think the best version to take on a road trip is the 321-hp MDX Hybrid, which is EPA-rated at 26/27 mpg—the highest of the lineup despite its added power. Opt for the available second-row captain’s chairs for maximum comfort for your passengers.
No SUV exemplifies American luxury as well as the Lincoln Navigator. From its distinctive exterior styling to its lavishly appointed interior packed with cool touches like real wood trim and available blue leather upholstery, the Navigator goes over the top to separate itself from its competitors. The fully digital gauge cluster also features pleasing graphics that are will be a treat to watch over hundreds of miles.
Audi interiors showcase some of the best build quality in the industry; the automaker does a nice job blending simplicity with cutting-edge technology. The Q7’s cabin is a great example, and would be a nice place to be on a long drive, regardless of whether you’re the passenger or driver. Even when equipped with every tech feature available, the Audi Q7 never overwhelms you with its gadgets and the interior always stays pleasant.
The largest Subaru ups the ante on practicality with room for up to eight passengers, one USB port for every passenger, and 19 cup holders. Even with every seat taken, the Subaru Ascent still has plenty of space for a couple weekend bags, but knock down the third row and you’ve got enough space for five plus their luggage.
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