So, you have a big family. You like to bring all your belongings with you. You like to tow. And you want to do all of these things at the same time.
Welcome to the world of large utility vehicles. Entries into this segment run the gamut from base, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive urban runabouts all the way to luxurious, leather-clad land barges cresting $100,000. There’s probably a sweet spot somewhere in the middle for just about anyone who needs this kind of capability, and we’re here to help you find it.
We’ve ranked our favorite large utility vehicles in order of how much we enjoyed our time with them. We’ll keep this list continually updated as we drive more vehicles, but for now, here’s how they stack up.
The Chevy Traverse is a perfectly competent entry into the large three-row utility vehicle segment. It’s just not exciting. At all. In our First Drive Review, we said:
“Taken as a whole, the new Traverse is a bit of a mixed bag. It doesn’t do anything new or groundbreaking, but there are no fatal flaws either. It’s a solid, if uninspiring effort from Chevrolet. The interior is a letdown, especially when compared to something like the masterful design inside the Honda Pilot. The Honda manages to feel both premium and hugely versatile, while the Chevy only manages the latter. That seems to be endemic of GM as a whole right now. The Traverse does have size on its side, and if you need the space, then it’s hard to look elsewhere.”
Thing is, if it’s size you’re after, you’ll find much larger SUVs on this list. The Traverse has its place, and Chevy will sell loads of them, but we think you might be able to find a better option if you look a little harder.
Research the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
If you’re looking for a top-level interior from a large three-row utility vehicle, and you want to buy a product from General Motors, we suggest you take a look at the Buick Enclave. From our First Drive Review:
“Our first impression was, “Wow, this interior is really nice.” The leather upon which we sat was soft, smooth to the touch, and interesting in its shapeliness. Looking around the cabin, we saw a lot of gentle curves and thoughtful accents that made the inside of the Enclave feel downright premium. It was a fresh and airy sense of taste though, and definitely not the seasoned wood-and-whiskey stodginess one might expect from the Buick name.
“Our second impression: “Boy, it’s quiet in here.””
The Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave both use a 3.6-liter V6 engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and are optionally available with all-wheel drive. Yes, the Buick is more expensive, but it feels worth it.
Research the 2018 Buick Enclave
There’s nothing wrong with the Volkswagen Atlas. It’s got all kinds of interior room, competent powertrain options, and it’s priced competitively. What it’s lacking, though, is emotion. From our First Drive Review:
“VW needed a credible entry into the seven-passenger crossover segment, and now it has one. But the company didn’t break any new ground in the process. We’re sure the brand will sell a whole bunch of Atlases here in America, land of the free and home of buyers who base decisions on value by the pound. But we still wish the Americanization of VW’s traditionally European-tinged lineup aimed for a lot less bland and a little more premium.”
Put simply, some people are going to love the Atlas for its practicality, while others are going to hate it for being so bland.
Research the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Most of the world knows this vehicle as the Nissan Patrol. Here in America, it’s called the Armada. And it loses some high-tech off-road gadgetry in favor of tuning for American tastes and a lower starting price. From our First Drive Review:
“Instead of being truckish, the Armada is as tame and composed as any large unibody crossover. For Armada buyers and Nissan engineers, that’s a triumph and a high compliment – not an easy task. If you’ve been drooling over a Land Cruiser but don’t have most of $100,000 to spend, the Armada is the ticket.”
So, it’s not the off-road-ready Patrol that the rest of the world gets, but it’s still got plenty of heavy-duty cred. Plus, it’s comfortable, and reasonably priced.
Research the 2018 Nissan Armada
2018 Dodge Durango SRT
Take a decent three-row SUV like the Dodge Durango, remove the standard six-cylinder engine, replace it with a fire-breathing V8 engine and beefed-up suspension hardware, and you get this. The Dodge Durango SRT benefits from a 392-cubic-inch Hemi V8 spitting out 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. From our First Drive Review:
“If you need a vehicle to check three seemingly disparate boxes, the Dodge Durango SRT makes a lot of sense. A third row and solid towing capability can be found in lots of competing vehicles. But if you need that car to be really entertaining when you’re not hauling your kids and boat somewhere – and a second vehicle is out of the question – the Durango SRT is a prime candidate. It’s capable of carrying you and five passengers when you need it, but after you drop the kids off at school you can take the long way to work and wring out the V8 to get your blood pumping. (Your kids will likely also enjoy being thrown back in their seats with the easy-to-use and impressively smooth launch control feature.)”
Not everyone is going to want so much power in their family utility vehicle. But we’re glad Dodge offers the Durango SRT for those who do.
Research the 2018 Dodge Durango
For years, the Ford Expedition played second fiddle to the much more successful Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon twins. With its latest redesign, which offers up to 400 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, the Expedition is now the best in its class. From our First Drive Review:
“Rather than reinvent the Expedition (and Navigator) entirely, Ford dug deep and built the big SUV it should have all along. Instead of a few distinct advantages lost in a sea of mediocrity, the entire vehicle is on par with or better than the GMT2K-platform trucks from GM. Beyond the independent rear suspension, which helps with dynamics as well as rear cargo-floor flatness, and the gee-whiz EcoBoost V6 with best-in-class theoretical fuel economy, there’s a lightweight aluminum body perched on top of a traditional steel ladder frame. Depending on trim and configuration, it’s up to 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor.”
If you want the best fullsize SUV in America, this is probably your best bet. Unless you want a bit more luxury, in which case you should probably click over to the next slide.
Research the 2018 Ford Expedition
As Lincoln’s flagship product, the Navigator has to stand out from the rest of the crowded fullsize utility segment. Thankfully, it does. From our First Drive Review:
“The all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator is very good. It’s distinctive, capable, and competent in ways that will stand up well in the upper echelon of the SUV hierarchy. And we’ll get this out of the way now: it’s far superior to its primary competitor, the Cadillac Escalade.
“Given its space, performance, style and enormous features list, this is a Lincoln flagship that can finally compete with the big boys.”
Research the 2018 Lincoln Navigator