While reliability (strangely) doesn’t appear in the top list of brand loyalty factors, it’s undeniably important to consumers. SUV owners wouldn’t hold onto their vehicles for so long if they couldn’t stand up to daily abuse. 3rd row SUVs especially need to be reliable, as they’re often used to transport families, although minivans are arguably superior in this regard. That’s why we’ve rounded up the most reliable 3rd row SUVs as determined by Consumer Reports.
Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX
Although the Land Cruiser and its Lexus counterpart aren’t particularly strong-sellers, these are two extremely reliable 3rd row SUVs. Not only is the Toyota Land Cruiser recommended by Consumer Reports, it has the 2nd highest score in CR’s large luxury SUV category.
Although both the Land Cruiser and LX have a lot of off-road features, and since 2016 carry modern safety tech like forward-collision warning and blind-spot monitoring, these SUVs are rather expensive. Not only to purchase—the base Land Cruiser starts at $86,640—but their 5.7-liter V8s aren’t particularly fuel-efficient.
However, these SUVs’ large size also means their 3rd rows do offer good passenger room. Although Car and Driver noted the Lincoln Navigator has more rear storage room than both, reviewers managed to fit 3 suitcases with the 3rd row up. A Navigator also wouldn’t be as capable off-road as the Land Cruiser or LX.
The Toyota Sequoia is sometimes forgotten about compared to the RAV4 and Highlander. But the Sequoia is a genuine 3rd row SUV, whereas the Highlander’s optional 3rd row is more for emergencies than daily use, according to Consumer Reports. It also enjoys CR’s highest possible reliability rating. Used Sequoias are also very affordable.
Although the body-on-frame SUV’s design dates back to the previous presidential administration, that also means Toyota’s essentially removed most of the trouble spots. While its 5.7-liter V8 and four-wheel drive, combined with the heavy body-on-frame design, do make it rather inefficient, unlike the Highlander, the Sequoia can genuinely off-road.
Kia Telluride/Hyundai Palisade
As a first-gen vehicle, several Kia Telluride owners have been experiencing some technical glitches. However, Consumer Reports ranked both SUVs as ‘above average’ in reliability, reporting high owner satisfaction. Both SUVs are also CR recommendations.
Motor Trend named the Kia Telluride its 2020 SUV of the Year, noting the 3rd row has enough room for full-sized adults. And in 14,000 miles, Car and Driver not only didn’t experience any glitches, it had to stretch to find anything really flawed with the SUV.
Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
While the Tahoe’s recent significant update might open up the possibility of design bugs, for now, it and its GMC version received above-average reliability ratings from Consumer Reports. It’s worth noting that while the Tahoe and Yukon have larger versions—the Suburban and Yukon XL—those are less reliable.
The outgoing Tahoe, Motor Trend noted, had a rather cramped 3rd row. However, the 2021 model’s shift to independent suspension has significantly increased space in the rear. This allegedly allowed engineers to increase 3rd-row passenger legroom by 10”.
Although luxury vehicles aren’t always the most reliable, Infiniti’s QX60 has reversed its previous standing with Consumer Reports. Since the 2017 model year, CR has ranked the QX60’s reliability as ‘above average’, and officially recommend the 3rd-row SUV. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Unlike some other SUVs on the list, however, the QX60 is a mid-size SUV. Because of that, Car and Driver noted its 3rd row is rather cramped. Plus, while the QX60 does offer a wide array of standard features, and the seats are comfortable, many of its luxury features are optional. That can quickly raise the price above the base price, which is roughly $47,000 for the upscale Luxe trim.
As with the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, the Mazda CX-9 spent several years with poor CR reliability scores. However, the mid-size SUV has since bounced back, receiving not only an excellent reliability rating but a CR recommendation. CX-9 owners also report high satisfaction.
Motor Trend noted that the CX-9 is somewhat smaller inside than its mid-size competitors. However, the 2nd and 3rd rows are still usable. The SUV did garner high marks for its interior quality and exterior styling, however. That, along with its driving dynamics, led MT to put the CX-9 on its list of recommended 3rd-row SUVs. And for those with families, the CX-9 is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
If safety is an absolute priority the Audi Q7 is also a good pick. According to the IIHS, in the 2011-2014 period, not a single person died behind the wheel of a Q7.
The Q7 is another luxury SUV that’s improved its reliability scores. Although it received a major update for 2020, CR gave the 2019 model year an excellent reliability score. The luxury mid-size SUV also received a CR recommendation.
As with the Mazda CX-9, the Audi Q7’s size does mean its 3rd row is somewhat tight on space, according to Motor Trend. However, that didn’t stop Car and Driver from naming the 3rd row SUV to its 10Best Trucks and SUVs list 3 years in a row.
The Audi Q7 is rather expensive, the base Premium trim costing roughly $62,000. However, Audi will launch a cheaper turbocharged four-cylinder version later in 2020.
The Toyota 4Runner’s entry on this list isn’t due to its reliability. Although this tough body-on-frame SUV isn’t without fault, some of those faults only occur because its owners drive it for so long. Newer versions are especially bulletproof, Toyota having ironed out the kinks in its V6 engine. No, the 4Runner is on this list because of a technicality.
Every other 3rd row SUV on this list has a 3rd row as standard. On the 4Runner, it’s an option. Only SR5 and Limited trims can be equipped with a 3rd row. The SR5 is the base 4Runner and the Limited slots between the TRD and TRD Pro. And while the SR5 and Limited are more affordable—new and used—they don’t have all the off-road tech that the TRD trims come with. In addition, according to NY Daily News, the 3rd row is cramped and takes away almost all the rear cargo space. Both Car and Driver and Autoblog felt the 3rd-row seats were really only suitable for children.
That being said, if you do want an off-road capable 4Runner with a 3rd row, a used Limited model is just as good off-road as a new TRD Pro.
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.