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Best midsize SUVs for the money

Choosing the right midsize SUV for you has never been more challenging, with automakers offering more options than ever before. Here are nine of our favorites.


SUVs are more popular than ever, which means automakers are flooding today's market with new models, from all-wheel drive to luxury to plug-in hybrid. This makes choosing the right two- or three-row SUV for you more complicated than ever before. While today's midsized SUVs come with lots of space, plenty of seats and the latest amenities, each is different with their own pros and cons.

The choice isn't endless, but there are several two- and three-row options that stand above the rest. Here are our editors' choice of nine favorite SUVs for sale. 

Read: The best luxury SUVs in 2020  

Mazda CX-9

Sure, the seven-passenger Mazda CX-9 hasn't seen an update since 2016, but it's still a good-looking crossover that has Mazda's signature fun-to-drive characteristics. The steering is quick and direct, and the chassis has a nimble quality that belies its larger footprint.

Under the hood is a 2.5-liter turbocharged I4 engine that makes up to 250 horsepower when fueled with 93 octane. The CX-9's powertrain has been optimized to deliver up to 310 pound-feet of torque as low as 2,000 rpm.

The CX-9 doesn't skimp on advanced driver-aid systems. Lane-keeping assistance, forward precollision braking and adaptive cruise control flesh out a fully featured i-ActivSense suite of technologies. The CX-9 has even been updated to finally include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay -- something it didn't always have.

Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot was revamped in 2016 and got a number of thoughtful updates in 2019. We like its strong 280-hp V6 engine, which returns 27 mpg on the highway when equipped with the optional nine-speed automatic transmission.

The Pilot is incredibly spacious for both passengers and cargo. The top-end Elite trim gets second-row captain's chairs and allows for seven passengers, but the rest of the line-up can seat eight. Fold the second and third rows down and there's 83.8 cubic feet of cargo space. 

The Pilot is available with front- or all-wheel drive and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Honda Lane Watch is standard on all but the lowest trim, and other ADAS systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are available on mid trims and standard on higher trims.

Toyota 4Runner

One of the few midsize body-on-frame SUV models still on the market offers rugged looks and has a sterling reputation as a stone reliable vehicle. The 4.0-liter V6 engine puts out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

It's a simple, throwback sport utility vehicle that has truck-like qualities, but it's compliant enough to ride on the pavement. It doesn't have any of the Toyota Safety Sense features, however, such as adaptive cruise control or blind-spot monitoring.

The 4Runner is capable of doing some legit off-pavement motoring. TRD Off-Road versions of the 4Runner come standard with an electronic-locking rear differential. An adaptive Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is available as an option on the 4Runner TRD Off-Road to provide additional wheel travel off-road. In addition, the suspension system improves on road handling by reducing body roll in corners.

Subaru Ascent

Subaru's been flirting with SUVs for ages, and while the Tribeca didn't quite stick, the new Ascent looks like it takes everything that makes the Forester work and just adds... more.

While the interior may be rather low-rent in areas, the Ascent is all about capability and flexibility -- including the greatest selection of cupholders found on any modern vehicle.

A proper, full-time AWD system will make sure you get to the lifts in time for first tracks on your next powder day.

Audi Q7

Audi's Q7 is unlikely to stir passions the way some of its more overtly sporty or luxurious models do, but this three-row crossover SUV does just about everything right. It offers a refined ride and strong in-cabin tech and it handles well. 

The Q7 can get costly when laden down with options, so don't be so quick as to dismiss the inherent goodness of lower-spec models, including those powered by the 2.0-liter four. While you can outfit the Q7 with a 333-hp supercharged V6, and it's a great engine, it does reduce fuel economy and gas mileage, and it adds to the base manufacturer's suggested retail price. 

The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo I4 putting out 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, mated to standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Volvo XC60

The XC60 looks a lot like a shrunken-down XC90, and it's gorgeous. The front fascia is dominated by the "Thor's Hammer" headlights and a chrome-lined grille. There's even a crystal shift knob for a fancy-pants interior.

The interior is well laid-out, beautifully made and comfortable, and the XC60 has a whole slew of driving safety features, including a rearview camera. The adaptive Pilot Assist cruise control system works especially well, bringing the car to a full stop in traffic. Standard on the XC60 is oncoming lane mitigation. There is even an optional air suspension system with automatic leveling. 

It's different. The available T8 power train combines a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged engine with an electric motor. The T8 engine produces up to 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. In a world of X5s and Q5s, the XC60 stands out as something else, something cool. 

Hyundai Santa Fe

Few brands do pure value better than Hyundai, and the Santa Fe is no exception. Its power, performance and efficiency are on par with the competition, but at a price that's easier on the wallet.

BlueLink tech offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity in the car and advanced phone and smartwatch monitoring apps when you're away.

One of the best warranties in the business covers the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles and the rest of the vehicle for five years or 60,000 miles. Five years of 24/7 roadside assistance means the Santa Fe probably won't leave you stuck like Chuck.

Dodge Durango

We love the way the Durango looks. With its upright fascia, big wheel arches and full-width LED taillights, this thing looks super fresh, even if it's already several years old.

You want V8 power in your midsize SUV? Dodge offers not one, but two eight-cylinder options. The regular Durango can be had with FCA's 5.7-liter Hemi V8, and the Durango SRT gets the big, mean, 6.4-liter engine.

The Durango's interior is well appointed, offers honest seating for seven people and its Uconnect infotainment system is one of the best on the market today.

Toyota Highlander

It's a Toyota, so it will run until the cows come home and the seas reclaim our coastlines. The base Highlander LE has an anemic 2.7-liter I4 engine with 185 hp, but other Highlander models have a 3.5-liter V6 with 295 hp. The V6 model is actually the most efficient, returning 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with front-wheel drive.

It's no-nonsense, three-row transportation. If you need a workhorse, the Highlander can handle it. There is room for seven or eight passengers and lane-keeping warning with steering assist and adaptive cruise control are both standard.

It's available as a hybrid, so you can get up to 30 miles per gallon while taking the little ones around town between school and soccer practice.

Originally published last year. Regularly updated as we review new SUVs.