They guzzle more fuel than virtually any other vehicle on the road, can be notoriously hard to park, and certainly won’t be the best handling vehicle you’ve ever driven, but when it comes to sheer cargo and passenger space, full-size, truck-based SUVs are second to none.
Large SUVs are essentially trucks, but instead of a bed, the cargo area is made up of a more family friendly cargo space format, which is more befitting of long road trips and vacations than work around a construction yard. However, these SUVs still possess some truck capabilities, such as towing, with the added benefit of being able to seat a whole soccer team. At least, almost a full soccer team.
Here are the nine vehicles that make up the slate of large SUV options for this year, including the high-end luxury models (Cadillac, Infiniti, etc.). Since we here at Wall St. Cheat Sheet haven’t driven the vehicles in question ourselves, we turned to the automotive expertise of Edmunds.com and others for some insight as to the pros and cons of each vehicle. The following are ranked alphabetically.
1. Cadillac Escalade ESV
Base price: $70,570 (for 2014; 2015 pictured)
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 18 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds has not yet tested the 2015 model of Cadillac Escalade, but of the 2014 model, it appreciated the vehicle’s “simultaneous cargo- and people-carrying ability,” its “unique” visual presence, long list of standard features, “gutsy” V8, and the “composed” ride. The Escalade also had the usual large SUV complaints, though: it was found to be awkward to maneuver in tight spaces, has “lackluster” braking performance, and poor fuel economy — we would, however, imagine that many of these complaints will be addressed with the new model.
Options worth splurging on: The $3,000 on all-wheel drive would be three grand well spent, and the $1,995 chrome six-spoke wheels look good, too (it is a Cadillac, after all). The Escalade comes with a lot of good standard features, but if carting children is a regular occurrence, the rear seat entertainment system with in-dash DVD player ($1,995) and all-weather floor mats for the first and second row ($150) might be a good buy.
2. Chevrolet Suburban
Base price: $47,300
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 21 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds has not yet reviewed the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban, but of the 2014 model, it noted that it has room for nine people, class-leading cargo capacity, lots of standard and optional features, a comfortable ride, and a “smooth V8 engine.” However, the Suburban — a defining model of the segment — was derided for the third-row seat being “bulky” and unable to “fold into the floor,” the long braking distances, its “sluggish” acceleration under full load, and the “hefty” curb weight that hurts the handling. We’d expect that at least a few of those factors will improve with the new model, as would the fuel economy.
Options worth splurging on: We’d recommend shelling out the extra $3,000 or so for the all-wheel drive option, especially for a vehicle this large. If you’re planning on carting around a boat or trailer with it, the Max Towing Package ($500) would likely be a good investment; adaptive cruise control ($1,695), navigation ($495), and all-weather floor mats ($140) would also be good investments if long journeys are commonplace.
3. Ford Expedition
Base price: $41,635
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 20 miles per gallon city
Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the “roomy” third-row seat and the fact that the Ford Expedition’s easy-to-fold rear seats increase interior flexibility. It also noted that the Expedition has more towing ability than similarly spacious crossovers. However, it lost points for the interior that is “cheapened” by some low-quality plastics, and the V8 apparently struggled under heavy loads.
Options worth splurging on: We’d go for the all-wheel drive setup, which adds about $2,900 to the price. The heavy duty tow package ($570) would be good for those who would use it, and the all-weather floor mats ($75) couldn’t hurt either.
4. GMC Yukon XL
Base price: $47,295 (for 2014)
Fuel economy: 15 miles per gallon city, 21 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Like in the Suburban, Edmunds noted that the Yukon can provide seating for up to nine passengers, features class-leading interior space, offers “smooth” road manners, and has an attractive interior with quality materials. The 6.2-liter V8 in the Denali trim is a powerful option. The downsides were the same as the Suburban’s: The Yukon suffers from the bulky third row seat that doesn’t fold into the floor, the long braking distances, its “sluggish” acceleration under full load, and the “hefty” curb weight that hurts the handling. Again, we’d expect that at least a few of those factors will improve with the new model, as would the fuel economy.
Options worth splurging on: As with all the others, the all-wheel drive option ($3,000) would be our first addition to the Yukon, followed by the heavy-duty trailering package ($330) if needed. The integrated trailer brake controller ($200) could also be a good investment on top of that, as well as the all-weather floor mats ($140), because no one has ever complained of having too much weather protection.
5. Infiniti QX80
Base price: $62,550
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 20 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the ”plentiful” standard and optional features, the Infiniti‘s (NSANY.PK) “powerful” V8 with its high towing capacity (400 horsepower and 8,500 pounds of towing capacity), the “easy-to-use” electronics interface, and the “capable” handling for a truck of its stature size. However, the third-row seats were “cramped,” and there was “moderate ride harshness” with the 22-inch wheels.
Options worth splurging on: The QX80 does in fact come well equipped as standard, but the all-wheel drive option will cost about $3,000 more. The technology package ($3,250) includes a lot of cool safety features (Lane Departure Warning, Backup Collision Intervention, “Front Seat Pre-Crash Seat Belts”), and if that’s a priority, it should prove well worth the cost.
6. Lexus LX 570
Base price: $82,630
Fuel economy: 12 miles per gallon city, 17 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: The Lexus LX is smaller than others listed here but can still accommodate up to eight people. Edmunds spoke highly of its “gutsy” V8, its well-balanced ride and handling, the strong brakes (often a complaint in this segment), its advanced off-road capabilities, and “luxuries galore.” However, those benefits come at a price; the LX is very thirsty, the third-row seat lacks legroom and limits cargo capacity when folded. Additionally, it’s quite expensive compared to the related Toyota Land Cruiser.
Options worth splurging on: While the luxury package ($7,125) is atmospherically expensive, you do get a lot of gadgetry for the price, from heated seats to a 19-speaker stereo and a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system. We would opt for the lesser of the two packages ($1,900) which includes the heated seats, parking assist, and a trunk mat, cargo net, and wheel locks.
7. Lincoln Navigator
Base price: $56,165 (for 2014; 2015 pictured)
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 20 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds commented on the Lincoln’s “plush” ride, the comfortable seating in all three rows, its power-folding third-row seat, and the fact that it’s “typically less expensive than comparable rivals.” However, the V8 engine “feels overworked under heavy loads,” its handling was described as “cumbersome,” and many of the interior surfaces and buttons feel cheap.
Options worth splurging on: Per usual, the all-wheel drive system ($3,000) will tack on some additional dollars. The heavy duty tow package ($500) is useful for those who, well, tow a lot, and it comes with a load-leveling rear suspension setup. The dual-headrest DVD entertainment system ($1,995) is more affordable than with some rivals, and all-weather mats can be had for $75.
8. Nissan Armada
Base price: $37,240
Fuel economy: 13 miles per gallon city, 19 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the Nissan Armada’s ”strong V8 performance, its substantial towing capacity (weighs in at about 9,000 pounds), and commended the “attractive and comfortable” interior. However, Edmunds wasn’t so keen on the “stiff, bouncy ride” on broken pavement, the “dismal” fuel economy, and that the Armada has less cargo space than its rivals.
Options worth splurging on: Four-wheel drive will add about $5,000 to the base price of the Armada, and we would recommend jumping to the Platinum trim ($52,510), which offers all the standard features of the base model plus navigation, a rear seat entertainment system, 20-inch rims, and a power glass moonroof.
9. Toyota Sequoia
Base price: $43,595
Fuel economy: 13 miles per gallon city, 18 miles per gallon highway
Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the “massive interior” with flexible seating for up to eight people, its “serene” ride and brisk acceleration, and the high towing capacity (7,400 pounds). However, the publication says audio controls are hard to reach while driving and that there’s a “cumbersome” setup process for Toyota’s Entune system.
Options worth splurging on: Checking the 4X4 box will add another $4,000 or so to the price of the base Sequoia model, but for this segment, we think it’s for the best. For those looking to load up a little bit, the Premium package ($3,565) offers an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite, a heated 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, and a backup camera.