For the Minivan-Averse
Large SUVs have essentially replaced the minivan as the family car of choice and are now built to accommodate almost an entire soccer team. Finding one with plenty of upscale appointments doesn’t necessarily mean opting for a luxury badge; many mainstream three-row SUVs are indeed luxurious. There’s an extensive selection for families looking for an upscale SUV with seating for up to nine people. This means those who are averse to the idea of owning a minivan have a tough (and fun) decision to make in choosing the right three-row SUV for your family. In addition to giving you a list of SUVs with seating for more than five, we’ve also taken note of a key feature for each one. There’s a three-row luxurious crossover out there to suit every taste.
Toyota Highlander Limited
Notable Feature: Bin in the dashboard to hold your mobile devices
With seating for up to eight passengers, the Toyota Highlander offers enough space to haul a basketball team. There’s also no shortage of room for gear, thanks to 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space that can be expanded to 42.3 cubic feet with the third row folded and 83.2 cubic feet with the second row down.
Even though the standard engine is a 185-hp, 2.7-liter I-4, the 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque is the engine to get in the Highlander, since it gives you plenty of power to work with when hauling people or cargo. A hybrid variant with a total system output of 280 hp is also available and is rated 27/28 mpg (8.7/8.4 L/100km) city/highway, making it the most efficient member of the Highlander lineup.
Kia Sorento SX Limited V6
Notable Feature: Nappa leather upholstery
Among mainstream three-row SUVs available today, the Kia Sorento is one of few that’s available with Nappa leather upholstery. Like every Kia vehicle, the Sorento comes with plenty of bang for your buck and offers features including heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row outboard seats, no less than four USB ports, a slick infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, and a 360-degree view camera.
Three-row variants can seat up to seven and come standard with a 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6, which means hauling gear or people won’t be an issue, even while climbing hills. Should you need to pick up some flat-pack furniture at Ikea, there’s up to 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third rows folded (38 cubic feet with the third row down, and 11.3 cubic feet with all seats up).
Notable Feature: An available 360-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8
Sharing its platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Dodge Durango is one of few three-row SUVs that are rear-drive based. For families looking for something with gobs of power and seating for up to seven, the Durango is available with a 5.7-liter V-8, meaning you’ll have more than enough oomph to outrun your neighbor on a school run.
One of the larger mainstream three-row SUVs, the Durango can haul up to 84.5 cubic feet of cargo with the second and third rows folded (47.7 cubic with the third row down, and 17.2 cubic feet with all seats up). In a 2014 three-row SUV comparison test, the Durango was crowned the winner thanks to a spacious interior and high levels of comfort.
Notable Feature: 4G LTE connectivity
Despite its age, the Buick Enclave continues to be a great choice as a luxurious family-hauler thanks to a well-appointed cabin that seats up to eight passengers. Buick’s smooth tuning also means the cabin is always whisper quiet, so your passengers—especially the kids—will be able to relax on long drives.
In case the little munchkins become restless, the Enclave is available with 4G LTE so they can play online games while you stay connected with the rest of the world. An entertainment system for rear-seat passengers is also available.
Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
Notable Feature: Tire filler alert that lets you know when you’ve reached the ideal tire pressure
The range-topping member of the Nissan Pathfinder lineup, the Platinum, is especially well-equipped with plenty of first-class features. Everything from the slick Around View Monitor and a panoramic sunroof to climate controlled front seats and 13-speaker Bose premium audio system are standard in the Pathfinder Platinum.
While its engine is the same aging 260-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 from Nissan’s VQ engine family, there’s still plenty of power on tap. Be aware, however, that off-roading may not be the best idea with this new Pathfinder since it only has 6.5 inches of ground clearance.
Notable Feature: Jewel Eye full LED headlights
One of the best luxury three-row SUVs available today, the Acura MDX offers space for the family without compromising driving dynamics. For its size, the MDX is agile, offering great handling without sacrificing ride comfort, especially when equipped with SH-AWD.
A new nine-speed automatic transmission has been added to the MDX for 2016. While the 290-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 hasn’t changed, the MDX in our First Test did the 0-60 mph run in 6.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds.
Notable Feature: Rear automatic emergency braking system called Backup Collision Intervention
Essentially the minivan of the Infiniti lineup, the QX50, formerly known as the JX35, seats seven. Unlike most entries in the luxury segment, the QX50 comes generously equipped with tri-zone climate control, keyless entry/start, heated front seats, a 7-inch infotainment screen, and a rearview camera.
Additional features such as the Around View Monitor, a 15-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, climate controlled seats, and power folding third-row seats are also available. Like the Nissan Pathfinder it’s based on, the QX60 comes standard with a VQ family 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 265 hp and 248 lb-ft that’s paired to a CVT. A hybrid was available for a short time and has since been discontinued.
Ford Explorer Platinum
Notable Feature: 365-hp 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6
Need gobs of power and an upscale interior all in one family-friendly SUV? Then the Ford Explorer should be on your shortlist. Essentially an Explorer Sport with a more luxurious interior, the Platinum trim has seating for seven and plenty of power in a feature-rich package.
In addition to the 365-hp, EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, the Explorer Platinum comes standard with a second-row heated seats, a dual-pane moonroof, a 500-watt audio system from Sony, adaptive cruise control, and a self-parking system.
Notable Feature: Seating for nine passengers
Forget the Tahoe if you need space for a family; the third row is cramped. Consider instead the larger Suburban, which comes with seating for nine passengers. That means that you’ll even have room for your extended family should they decide to tag along for a road trip.
Your little ones won’t get bored either, since there are no less than five USB ports to charge your mobile devices and 4G LTE connectivity to keep everyone connected to the Web. Should there be more devices on board, there’s an available wireless charger, five 12-volt outlets, and a 110-volt outlet to support them.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Notable Feature: 8-speed automatic transmission added for 2016
Legendary in name and well-regarded worldwide for its off-road chops, the Toyota Land Cruiser is the ideal luxury SUV for families that need seating for eight and want a vehicle with heritage. Powered by a 381-hp, 5.7-liter V-8, the Land Cruiser comes packing plenty of power for adventurous families looking to do so some rock crawling.
No, you don’t need to add any options to the Land Cruiser. Toyota sells them in a single trim that’s loaded to the gills with features including LED headlights, a new Entune infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen and navigation, four-zone climate control, and a 14-speaker JBL audio system. Just make sure you know which exterior and interior colors you’d like.
Honda Pilot Elite AWD
Notable Feature: Center console storage area so large it can fit your expensive purse
Now sharing a platform with the more expensive Acura MDX, the new Honda Pilot now comes with a new 280-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and an available nine-speed automatic gearbox. The old car’s boxy styling has been ditched in favor of a more curvaceous shape reminiscent of a CR-V that’s been puffed up with air. You’ll also be pampered as a passenger thanks to a cabin that’s luxuriously appointed in the Elite trim.
Available with seating for seven or eight passengers, the Pilot is now a bona fide family-hauler that can serve as the default road trip car for the entire clan. With the amount of room available, you won’t need to leave anything behind, with numerous storage cubbies and 16 cubic feet of space with all seats in place (46 cubic feet with the third row down and 82.1 cubic feet behind the front seats).
GMC Yukon XL Denali
Notable Feature: 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8
Essentially the large SUV for families needing to seat nine without sacrificing luxury, the GMC Yukon XL Denali brings plenty of comfort and technology wrapped in a large, imposing package. To keep harsh surfaces from penetrating the cabin, the Yukon XL Denali comes with Magnetic Ride Control as standard to ensure you glide smoothly across the asphalt.
Need to stay connected while on the road? There’s an available 4G LTE hotspot to keep you online. Should you need to keep your mobile devices juiced up, there are five USB ports, 5 12-volt outlets, and one 110-volt outlet to support all tablets and phones on board.
Cadillac Escalade ESV
Notable Feature: An imposing presence
The most luxurious of the three full-size SUVs from General Motors, the Cadillac Escalade ESV defines excessive opulence. Featuring a 420-hp V-8 engine, Magnetic Ride Control, a 16-speaker Bose audio system, and a 360-degree view camera, the Escalade ESV is packed to the brim with tech gadgetry.
With seating for up to eight passengers, the Escalade ESV will keep families comfortable on long drives. Like in other full-size GM SUVs, there’s no shortage of mobile device support, including five USB ports, an auxiliary jack, and a 110-volt outlet to keep your gadgets fully juiced on road trips.
Lexus LX 570
Notable Feature: Awesome 450-watt, 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system
Essentially the Toyota Land Cruiser’s more imposing and luxurious sibling, the newly refreshed Lexus LX 570 offers excellent off-road capabilities and seating for up to eight passengers. The same 5.7-liter V-8 is found under the hood, but the LX differentiates itself with standard adaptive variable suspension.
Passengers will be coddled by luxurious perforated leather upholstery and there’s a rear entertainment system, should you be in the mood for a movie. If you’re on a long drive and brought beverages with you, the center console storage can keep them chilled.
Notable Feature: Portrait style 9-inch infotainment touchscreen
The first of a new wave of Volvos built under the ownership of Geely, the XC90 proves that the Swedish brand knows how to do luxury without losing its identity. Inside, you’ll find a simple but elegant interior that’s very Scandinavian and can seat (and pamper) up to seven passengers.
Less is more remains the philosophy at Volvo inside and out, with only eight buttons in the center stack and a four-cylinder engine under the hood packing over 300 hp from a twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4. Need more power? The XC90 T8, a plug-in hybrid offers a whopping 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque thanks to an electric motor working with that I-4.