There are plenty of SUVs out there that can give you the freedom of off-road exploration. Not all of them have a third row, though, so they aren’t all large enough for adventurous families larger than 4 or 5 people.
The third row SUV is the ultimate family vehicle. Give it off-roading capabilities and it’s a bona fide beast. All of the SUVs on this list have been praised for their ability to blend off-road agility with family-sized accommodation.
The Nissan Armada
Possibly one of the most underrated SUVs in America, the Armada is actually a pretty upstanding contender in the adventurous family vehicle category. The Nissan Armada is the American sibling of the Nissan Patrol offered in places like the Middle East and Australia.
On the same frame as the Nissan Titan pickup truck, the armada is a strong SUV capable of off-road handling and ample towing capacity at 8,500 pounds. U.S. News rates this SUV fourth in its class –– pretty good for an SUV that only sold just over 30,000 units last year.
Compare that to the Chevy Tahoe which sold over 100,000, according to Good Car Bad Car, but it’s just two spots above the Nissan Armada on U.S. News’ list of large SUVs. It’s the most expensive on this list, starting around 48 grand, but still a few grand lower than the popular Tahoe. Its V8 engine gets about the same overall highway mpg as the Toyota 4Runner –– according to Car and Driver, the AWD Armada gets its posted 18 mpg –– but boasts a larger cargo capacity than the 4Runner.
The Toyota 4Runner
The 4Runner has part time four-wheel drive standard on every trim level except the base model and the highest Limited edition trim. This body-on-frame SUV is an ultra capable off-roader with a third row. Its V6 engine allows a tow capacity of 5,000 pounds.
Car and Driver reports the fuel mileage was low for its class at 19 mpg in their highway test. It is without a doubt the most capable rock-crawler or sand-navigator off all three of these third row SUVs. It comes fully loaded for around 50 grand, putting in between the Telluride and the Armada.
What it offers in off-road capability it sacrifices elsewhere. The 4Runner has limited cargo and only seats up to 7. It’s the most utilitarian of all three, and its interior is simple with absolutely nothing fancy going on. It also has a less comfortable and louder on road experience.
The Kia Telluride
The Kia Telluride is one of the most decorated vehicles of the year, winning numerous awards including the World Car of the Year award. It’s a family car with seating for up to 8. A fancy fully loaded AWD Kia Telluride is a bargain at around 46 grand.
Compared to others, like the 4Runner and the Armada, this is an absolute deal. It pulls the same tow capacity as the Toyota 4Runner at 5,000 pounds, it’s the only option on this list to offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus, it gets the best fuel economy –– Car and Driver reports 24 mpg in their highway test. Its crossover frame is made up for with locking differentials and 6 different driving modes.
This third row SUV is ready for an adventurous family. It’s great for the money, offers modern safety and connectivity, as well as a comfortable driving experience in spite of its competitive off-road abilities.
Adventurous third row SUVs
All three of these are a great choice for an adventurous family. The Nissan Armada is the largest, and offers the sturdiness of a truck frame without sacrificing its plush interior.
The all-new Kia Telluride is the most SUV for the money, competing on all fronts with every other large SUV out there.