Since sport utility vehicles first started becoming all the rage in the mid-1990s, manufacturers have continued to refine them with the features that drivers want and have come to expect. This automobile market is typically divided into compact, subcompact, midsize and large SUVs, with crossover SUVs being one of the most recent classifications.
SUVs are already thought of as being a cross between the utility of a station wagon or pick up truck and the driving around town convenience of a sedan. Crossovers can be thought of as combining the features and capabilities of larger SUVs with the benefits of smaller cars such as better gas mileage and being able to fit in that tight parking space. Taken together, the various subcategories of this vehicle segment can meet the needs of an amazingly large target market, which explains their ubiquitous nature on America’s roadways today.
The following are just a few of the best available 2017 models in terms of offering the features that drivers want and doing so at a price point that offers value.
5th – The 2017 Ford Expedition
If you need something that can haul a lot of gear to the great outdoors or tow that boat to the water, only full-size SUVs will offer the kind of hauling capability you need. These vehicles are not cheap on gas and don’t fit into small parking spaces and their owners know that and don’t care. They buy them because they are what’s needed to get the job done when it comes down to moving lots of people and stuff where they want to go.
The latest Ford Expedition meets this description perfectly. It gets a 5 out of 5 rating from both Edmunds.com and Car and Driver. The Expedition’s MSRP starts at about $46,000, and its 365-horsepower engine and 6,600-pound towing capacity give it the power and ability to get the job done. While there were no major changes for the 2017 model year, it already offered excellent cargo capacity, a smooth ride, powerful engine, and room for the whole family with three rows of seating.
For long trips, the Expedition’s infotainment options will keep you from getting bored. Its entertainment system includes satellite radio, HD radio and a 12-speaker Sony audio system. One feature that some parents will love is what Ford calls MyKey. It’s basically an extra key that can be programmed with speed and volume limitations, so parents will know their teenager isn’t speeding or blasting the sound system unbelievably loud.
4th – 2017 Honda Pilot
If you need something with sufficient space and comfort for long family trips but a vehicle that also makes getting around the city or suburbs easier, a midsize SUV will fit the bill. This stylish Car and Driver Editors’ Choice Award recipient starts at just over $31,000 MSRP with the base trim and goes up to $47,000 for the Elite trim package. It carries eight passengers comfortably, and it has a peppy 280 horsepower V-6 engine that enables it to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The entry-level Pilot includes push-button ignition, a rearview camera for added safety and a stereo that comes with Bluetooth and USB ports. It has such a superb combination of interior room, entertainment and safety features and reliability ratings that U.S. News & World Report considers it the best three row SUV for families.
3rd – The 2017 Mazda CX-3
This sport utility vehicle ranks number one in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top ten subcompact SUVs, and Car and Driver gives it a rating of five out of five. At a starting MSRP of just under $20,000, it is affordable. It offers best-in-class performance with handling that may make you feel like you are driving a sports car. It also has an impressive looking interior, especially for its price, and an equally impressive fuel economy.
It only seats five, but this is par for the course in the subcompact segment. Its cargo space might be even a little less than some competitors in this class, but let’s face it; if you wanted something for long road trips, you’d get a midsize or full-size SUV. People buy a vehicle like the Mazda CX-3 because it offers some of the practicality of an SUV while being fun to drive. Its standard features add to the fun with a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system and voice-activated commands. It is also a safe ride, with a rearview camera coming standard as well.
2nd – 2017 Audi Q7
No list of the top SUVs for a given model year would be complete without mentioning one or two luxury models. Sure, they may be out of your reach at the moment, but there’s nothing like having a financial goal to work toward. As a midsize SUV, the Q7 offers you and your family the flexibility of a vehicle that’s as adept at going on long trips with all your luggage as it is at commuting to work. It has a lavish interior, smooth ride and high-tech infotainment system that will ensure you do either in total luxury.
Starting at just under $50,000, you get a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that puts out 333 horsepower. Because it’s a luxury SUV, even the base model includes all-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s Drive Select feature, which lets you choose from the four driving modes of comfort, dynamic, auto or off-road. The Q7 seats 7 and comes in three trim packages. It comes standard with a third row of seats that the competing Volvo XC90 lacks, and it offers more features as standard than the BMW X5.
1st – 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Car and Driver put it best when they said, “thanks to its off-road grit, the Grand Cherokee’s expertise doesn’t begin and end in the concrete jungle like many of its rivals”. This one quote sums up why this Car and Driver Editor’s Choice Award recipient is at the top of this list. It offers truly rugged off-road capability to a list of features that many competitors also offer. To get similar off-road capabilities with more luxurious trim you would have to step up to the Toyota Land Cruiser at about double the price of the Cherokee, which starts at an MSRP of about $30,000.
It comes standard with a V6 engine that produces about 300 horsepower. There are, however, plenty of engine upgrade options, which would largely account for its maximum towing capacity varying anywhere from 3,500 to 7,200 pounds. This solid vehicle offers a plush interior and an intuitive infotainment system. The 2017 model is particularly strong now due to the fact that rearview camera and rear parking sensors are now standard.
What Are You Looking for in an SUV?
You have to look at the preceding list with your needs in mind. It was ranked in a numerical order, but if, for example, you have a lot of hauling to do and need to put size and towing capacity above all other considerations, then the Ford Expedition might be your top choice despite being number five above. If you’re single or have a small family and just need something practical to get around town in, something small but more fun like the Mazda CX-3 might be more up your alley.
All of the above are solid offerings that deserve a hard look if you are in the market for a sport utility vehicle.