Large families needing a vehicle with seating for 8 or more passengers do not have as many options as they once did, as car-like crossovers have gradually replaced truck-based large SUVs. Rugged models are still available, but consumers have shifted toward smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles that are easier to live with on a daily basis. That said, there are several excellent options for those who need to haul more than just a couple of kids.
The following are our picks for the top five large 2015 SUVs that offer seating for 8. Each vehicle in this very competitive segment offers a slightly different set of features and strengths.
2015 Chevrolet Traverse – $30,995
At its price point, no other large crossover on the road can match the 2015 Chevrolet Traverse in interior and cargo space. With seating for 7 or 8 passengers depending on the configuration of the second row, the Traverse boasts a spacious third row with plenty of space for 6-foot-tall adults. Cargo capacity is excellent, matching the GMC Acadia for top in the segment. 24.4 cubic feet of space lies behind the last row, meaning there is no need to fold down any seats back just for a grocery run. Fold down both rear rows and the area becomes massive with 116.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
With a 5-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as a standard backup camera, the Traverse earns top marks for safety. Stepping up to the higher trim levels brings some advanced active safety features: Forward Collision Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other large SUVs may be more powerful or more rakishly styled, but nothing matches the Traverse’s blend of affordability and gargantuan interior space.
2015 Buick Enclave – $39,050
Buick’s luxury SUV is related to the Traverse and GMC Acadia. To justify its higher price tag, the Enclave gets a stylish and plush interior that is a cut above of what is found in its competitors. Like the Traverse, the Enclave packs a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 288 horsepower and returns decent fuel economy at 24 mpg highway. The Enclave’s interior is as richly detailed as that of a fine luxury sedan, with heated and ventilated seats and even an available heated leather steering wheel.
The base Enclave comes with second row captain’s chairs that can slide and recline. Upgrading to the Leather or Premium trim replaces the captain’s chairs with a bench seat which increases the seating capacity to 8. At these higher trim levels, the Enclave shows off it’s luxuriousness with a massive dual-pane panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, a rear seat entertainment system, and integrated navigation. You won’t find a large SUV near the Enclave’s $40,000 price tag that features as much attention to the exterior design. Even though this vehicle has been on the market for a few years, its soft curves and chromed trim make a bold statement in a sea of undifferentiated crossovers.
2015 Toyota Highlander – $29,415
Toyota’s large crossover is a top choice for families who do a ton of driving. The standard 185 horsepower 4 cylinder engine gets gas mileage of 20 city and 25 highway. Upgrading to the 270 horsepower V6 is well worth it, as its 19 city and 25 highway ratings are almost identical to those of the 4 cylinder. The Highlander is one of the only 8 seat hybrid SUVs available. The Highlander Hybrid gets 27/28 MPG city/highway without sacrificing passenger or cargo space, making it the most fuel-efficient on the road.
Riding on a new platform, the length of this smooth-riding minivan replacement has been increased significantly for 2015. Cargo capacity has risen to 83.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded flat. However, there is still less space available for passengers and cargo compared to the other options on this list. Third row space in the Highlander is especially tight, leaving it best suited for children or short trips. On the positive side, the Highlander’s smaller size makes it a better choice for those who want something easier to park. It received an overall 5 of 5 stars from the NHTSA in crash testing. Toyota offers blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and collision mitigation with automatic braking, along with an emergency telematics systems that can automatically summon roadside assistance and emergency response teams when the vehicle is involved in an accident.
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe – $45,550
Completely redesigned for 2015, the Tahoe is quite different than the other four SUVs on this list. While the others use car-like unibody platforms, the Tahoe shares its bones with the newest generation of GM’s pickup trucks. With a standard 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 engine, the heavy-duty platform makes the Tahoe one of, if not the best choice for families who need space for 8 as well as the strength to easily tow a large boat or trailer. When properly equipped, the Tahoe features an 8,300-pound towing capacity, or more than double what you’d find on some car-like SUVs. The downside to all that ruggedness is that the Tahoe handles more like a bulky cargo van than a compact crossover. Fuel economy is also a far cry from the Highlander with a MPG rating of just 16/23 city/highway.
The 2015 Tahoe offers seating configurations for 7, 8 or even 9 passengers. This year the third row seat folds flat into the floor, instead of having to be removed in order to accommodate more cargo. However, despite the Tahoe’s large size, at just 15.3 cubic feet behind the third row and 94.7 cubic feet maximum, total cargo space is considerably less than the Traverse. Standard safety features include forward collision warning, a backup camera, rear parking sensors and OnStar emergency response with turn-by-turn driving directions.
2015 GMC Acadia – $33,975
Why choose the GMC Acadia over its close cousins in the Traverse and Enclave? While it is a bit more expensive than the Chevrolet, the Acadia comes with more standard features and a more luxurious interior. Even the base model comes standard with keyless entry, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear privacy glass, OnStar, a rearview camera, and better materials quality than in the Chevrolet. The top-of-the-line Acadia Denali model adds chromed 20 inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust, extra exterior chrome trim, and an interior with an air of luxury approaching Cadillac levels.
The Acadia shares the Traverse’s 288-horsepower V6, bringing 17 city and 24 highway mpg. Thanks to extra professional-grade equipment, towing capacity is admirable for a unibody SUV at 5,200 pounds. Benefiting from the same advanced safety equipment as GM’s other models, the Acadia earns a 5-star crash test rating from the NHTSA, making it one of the safest vehicles on the road for large families.