There is no market segment out there in the car industry that is more important to consumers or has the ability to make or break the profitability of a car company. That market segment, of course, is the family SUV segment and it covers such a wide depth and breadth of pricing, size and luxury that you could say it mirrors the state of American families today perfectly. These vehicles are the daily workhorses used by millions to haul kids to school, perform hauling duties, tow trailers and generally be pushed to the limits of their ability. So they really, really have to be good.
As follows is our list of the top ten best family SUVs on the market today and we have test driven all of them to ensure that they are the best of the best. They are all at the top of the heap when it comes to crash test safety so you can also be sure they will keep your family safe in case of an accident. And of lesser importance, they all have interiors robust enough to withstand countless juice box spills and the possibility of the family dog getting carsick in the back seat. Hey, these things happen. And these SUVs can handle it.
Image from Honda
2014 Honda CR-V—Well the inclusion of the best-selling Honda CR-V would have to fall under the category of “duh” when it comes to being recommended. It is perfectly sized to be maneuverable, has a low liftover height so getting cargo in the back and climbing into the seats is not something that will make you throw out your back. It is fuel efficient but also has communicative steering, agile handling and a rev-happy 2.4 liter 185 horsepower 4-cylinder that makes it just that much more fun to drive and own than a Toyota RAV4.
2014 Lexus RX350—This is the SUV that essentially invented the compact luxury SUV segment that is now jam packed with entries like the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK and Acura RDX. But there is nothing quite like the original which offers buyers air tight residual values, proven reliability, one of the most stylish and robustly assembled interiors as well as timeless exterior design. Yet another no-brainer of a purchase.
2014 Buick Enclave—With its stylish chrome front waterfall grille, chrome and leather laden interior and incredibly roomy interior with an overwhelming amount of room for seven adults to stretch out comfortably, the Enclave is the perfect road trip SUV. It comes equipped with tons of toys and if it isn’t standard you can find it on the options list which features things like air conditioned front seats and a handy rear seat DVD entertainment system.
2014 Chevy Equinox—Yes, we know that this plus sized compact SUV is based on an aging platform but last year this reliable workhorse was given a new lease on life thanks to a new 301 horsepower 3.6 liter V6 engine option that used to be only available to Cadillac buyers. This motor enables the Equinox to tow 3,500 lbs. as well as accelerate with enough verve to convince anyone that they wanted to sell their two seat roadster when they had children. It’s that good.
2014 Ford Explorer—While we suggest you avoid the base 4-cylinder Ecoboost motor as it just isn’t quite powerful enough to move this heavy SUV, with the 3.5 liter V6 this latest Explorer has plenty of get up and go while being decently economical. What truly impresses is the well-designed interior which boasts all the latest high tech features including the much improved Sync and MyFordTouch systems on higher trim levels. Stay tuned for the second half of this list! All photos by James Hamel unless otherwise noted.