Many families want something spacious without sacrificing style. Minivans are not as stylish or as fun to drive. A car cannot offer the same roominess or seating comfort. The answer for many is a large sport utility vehicle with seating for 8 passengers.
Choosing the SUV with the right fit, seating, cargo space and price takes time, so we created this list to help you narrow down your options. The ratings given are based on a number of factors including reviews and ratings from reputable sources. You can learn more about how we calculate ratings. The most economical choices are the versatile Honda Pilot and the safe Chevy Traverse. In the midrange, the GMC Acadia offers a uniquely large third row, and the Buick Enclave seems to hit all of the right marks. The Cadillac Escalade is at the top both in cost and powertrain prowess.
While all of the vehicles below have 3rd rows, only two of them: the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave offer a third row that is inviting to anyone other than children.
2013 Honda Pilot – $29,520
Our rating: 7.8
Most Versatile Family SUV
The Pilot may not be the fanciest of the bunch, but it is the most versatile. For the money, this large crossover offers more room due to its boxy exterior. Headroom, legroom and hiproom are better in more positions. In fact, the rear seat can accommodate adult-sized people in a way that its competitors can’t quite match. The middle row seats adjust for greater wiggle room, and the seats fold flat enough to make this a great way to transport big items. The lower price allows the average consumer to go up a few levels to get coveted technologies such a touch-screen and navigation. The reverse-view camera is standard on all models.
Its fuel economy is better than the competition with 25 mpg/highway in the front wheel drive models and 24 mpg in all wheel drive models. This is only a slight improvement over the others, but it will mean something to the family budget over time. The Pilot is no slouch when it comes to safety, earning Top Safety Pick and other accolades for its safety cage design and multiple airbags. Kelley Blue Book repeatedly awards Honda with its overall best brand, emphasizing the reliability, longevity and resale value of a used Pilot.
2013 Chevrolet Traverse – $30,510
Our rating: 8.1
Safest Family SUV
While all of these SUVs do well in their crash tests, the Traverse had almost perfect five star ratings in every category. Furthermore, the 2013 Traverse features a front center side airbag. This is available on the Arcadia and Buick models but check those pricetags. For the money, the Traverse is clearly the safety winner. It even includes a standard rearview parking system and standard parking sensors. With those two on board, backing up is much easier.
Rollover mitigation technology and all-important head-curtain airbags combine to reduce the risk to passengers. Another key system is the available Side Blind Zone Alert. The available Rear Cross Traffic Alert is another great reason to consider the Traverse. Finally, OnStar is standard for six months, adding to the overall warranty guarantees that make the Traverse a safe bet at a great price. Adding to its appeal, the Traverse has one of the largest cargo holds of the bunch, and the optional third row folds away to provide additional cargo space.
2013 GMC Acadia – $39,830
Our rating: 7.8
Best Third Row in a Family SUV
The Acadia easily has the best third row on this list. The Acadia makes it easiest to access with simple push levers on the middle row. Best of all, the rear seat allows for extra headroom and footroom that most others don’t have. The Acadia benefits from a unique centered airbag for the front row.
The 2012 model was often criticized for lesser plastic materials, but the 2013 model shows marked improvements through higher quality fabrics, softer leathers and softer-touch plastics. Red ambient lighting makes the nighttime a little nicer. The Acadia benefits, too, from its high horsepower engine which keeps it on a par with the Buick Enclave. For less money, the Acadia offers many of the same features as the Buick.
2013 Buick Enclave – $42,460
Our rating: 8.4
Best Overall SUV for the Money
For good reason, the Enclave has won the Consumer Digest Best Buy Award and the Strategic Vision Total Quality Award. The 2013 actually improves on the popular 2012 Enclave and seems to be working harder to earn its price. A new grille adds more definition to the curvy lines of the exterior. Soft-touch plastics add to the refinement of the pleasant interior. IntelliLink is standard. This makes it even easier to utilize other standards such as Bluetooth, audio streaming, satellite radio, HD radio and voice recognition technology. Front seat safety has been improved with the unique front center airbag. This just adds more credit to a crossover that already has a five-star government rating and an insurance top safety pick award.
Its 288-horsepower engine keeps this SUV competitive, and the improved transmission shifts cleaner at higher speeds than previous models. Drivers shouldn’t expect the handling to be exciting, however. This midsize crossover is anything but small. Gas mileage tops out at 24 mpg/highway, but even that is respectable when balanced with the vehicle’s worthy performance. The rear offers a generous 23 cu.ft. of storage. It can carry 115 cu.ft. of cargo when all of the seats are folded down.
2013 Cadillac Escalade – $63,745
Our rating: 7.9
Most Powerful Family SUV
Luxury begins with the outstanding powertrain on this vehicle. Although the others have V-6, the Cadillac Escalade will settle for nothing less than the V-8. This can create an amazing 403 horsepower and an even better 417 lb.ft/torque. For those who really love to drive, this is the only sporty drive among these SUVs. Powerful brakes make it easier to stop this mammoth than most drivers would expect. Magnetic Ride Control improves handling to the point of surprising, too.
Unfortunately, the Escalade’s gas mileage is only 14 mpg/city and 18 mpg/highway, but this can be remedied. The hybrid Cadillac Escalade uses an electronic motor to augment its V6. The result is a high horsepower powertrain that manages to increase fuel efficiency to 20 mpg/city and 23 mpg/highway.