Meet the top SUVs for 2021
There's a good chance that if you're shopping for 0 new car, you are actually shopping around for an SUV. Because SUVs are by now the most popular vehicle type. Gone are the days of sedans everywhere. Instead, it's a sea of SUVs. However, it's not difficult to see why they're so popular. They're big and much more flexible than a sedan, and they'll fit in nicely.
To put it another way, choosing the right SUV for you can be a little daunting. That's where we come in. We've driven almost every SUV and crossover on the market, from small to large, inexpensive to luxurious. These are our recommendations for the major categories most buyers will encounter, with hybrids and electrics even added to the mix for those looking forward even further.
The best subcompact SUVs are the smallest SUV's.
Folks on the tiny house bandwagon will surely love the Hyundai Venue, which is simply the smallest house of SUVs available for sale today.
The Hyundai Venue 2021 may have a tiny footprint, but it's huge in value. Its 1.6-liter inline-4 produces 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to make this little guy feel quite bouncy, and the standard continuously variable transmission keeps things smooth. According to the EPA, it's also efficient, achieving up to 30 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway.
Style is a top priority in the Venue, whether it's the funky-fresh exterior or the sensible-yet-interesting interior. If you'd like to spend a bit more money, the Denim trim employs surprisingly cool blue interior motif. With an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as safety features such as automatic emergency brakes and lane-keeping assist, Tech takes center stage here.
The best compact SUV is the compact car.
Mazda's sharp CX-30 is a newcomer to the compact SUV market, but it builds on Mazdas recent SUV success.
The CX-30's coupe-like roofline gives this small SUV a certain dimension. That quasi-luxurious angle is best exemplified inside, where higher trims feel positively chic, with soft touch points and a surprising amount of soft leather. Combine that with a no-nonsense layout that keeps distractions to fewer, and you've got arguably the most comfortable place to spend supper.
There's also a bit of bite to match the CX-30' s bark. Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch infotainment screen and a whole host of safety systems, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and Lane-Keeping Assistance. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter I4 producing an impressive 186 horsepower and 185 lb-ft, with front-wheel drive standard and all-terrain drive available for varying prices. With a highway speed of 33 mpg and smog of 25 ppm, the FWD models are also efficient.
The best midsize SUV is the Audi A335
When the Kia Telluride first launched, we were blown away. More than a year later, it still stands as arguably the most impressive midsize SUV that isn't afraid to get fancy.
Despite a low starting price of $32,000, the Telluride is equipped with luxurious touches such as Nappa leather, ventilated seats, and power-folding rear rows. The Telluride has three rows of seats, so big families don't have to buy a car that won'' t fit in the garage. An 8-inch infotainment system is standard, but higher trims get a more impressive 10.3-inches display with touch and physical controls. It's also a pretty comfortable ride.
The Kia Sport isn't the most fuel-efficient SUV out there, with its 291 horsepower V6 offering 20 mpg city and 26 mmpge highway with front-wheel drive, although adding AWD only reduces those figures by 1 or 2. For a vehicle that'll carry the entire family and tow 5,000 pounds, it's still regarded as prestigious in the midsize SUV market.
Read our 2021 Kia Telluride review.
The best full-size SUV is the Ford Fiesta.
Body-on-frame SUVs still exist, but they're harder to find, and these truck-based utes are generally quite large. But if you need to haul a lot of stuff, whether it's people or cargo, the new-for-2021 Chevy Tahoe is ready to stand and deliver.
The Tahoe will be upgraded for 2021, with a new independent rear suspension that transforms the ride from heavy to luxurious. That revised rear end also helped maximize space in the redesign, with 66% more cargo space behind the third row (now 25.5 cubic feet) and third-row seats that get an extra 10 inches of legroom. It's like a Brooklyn studio apartment in this area, and for wildly less than you would pay for real estate in NYC, with prices starting at around $50,000.
Families will appreciate... well, pretty much everything the Tahoe has to offer. There are a thousand places to store things, USB ports are available in every row, and up to nine cameras can provide optimum visibility around the vehicle for perfect parking. Proper safety systems have finally arrived in this segment, with the Tahoe packing standard equipment like automatic emergency brake, parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring.
Read our Chevy Tahoe 2021 preview.
The best compact luxury SUV is the Audi A6.
Whether or not you agree that Mercedes-Benz needed a compact luxury SUV to fit between the tiny GLA-Class and the slightly larger GLC-class, one thing is for certain: The car that landed in that position is good, and it may be better than any of the others.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 is a clever little compact luxury SUV that takes the boxier form of the imposing three-row GLS-Class and adapts it to opulent form. Not only is it a pleasing shape, but there's also function behind that form, with its higher roof allowing for fewer distractions for those inside. Heck, Mercedes-Benz even has a third row in here -- but you can't get anything bigger than he/she in there.
The GLB250's 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 delivers 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, with both FWD and AWD versions achieving 30-plus mpg on the highway. There's a lot of standard tech inside, with two 7-inch screens sticking out even on the base model, although you may opt for ten-by-ten inchers for extra flash. The displays run Mercedes-Benz's MBUX infotainment software, which is among our favorites for its natural-language processing and straightforward (but not feature-light) layout.
The best midsize luxury SUV in the market is the Toyota XLE.
The Genesis offshoot's first luxury SUV is a dazzling design that prioritizes luxury over sporting pretension in oh so subtle he will see it in 2021.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 looks like nothing else on the road, thanks to Genesis' distinctive brand style, which includes split headlights and taillighting with a big ol' shiny grille up front. Its fastback-style roofline doesn't eat into second-row space, and there's still a substantial amount of storage space on offer, with the option to convert some of it to swivel-down third rows.
Luxury is the name of the game in the GV80, thanks to an available 3.5-liter V6 that produces 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. It lacks air suspension, but the ride quality is still pleasant and pleasant for long drives on the highway. The exterior is old-school chic, with a focus on soft edges and high-quality leather. Genesis' tech is also impressive, with a 14.5-inch infotainment display that looks larger than what the Germans are currently offering.
Read our 2021 Genesis GV80 review.
The top full-size luxury SUVs are the best.
If you thought the Cadillac Escalade was a tarnished-up Tahoe with some extra leather, you'd be wrong. You'd have been right up until 2021, but now, Cadillac's large-and-in-charge hauler stands on its own as a truly impressive tech showcase on wheels.
Cadillac has undoubtedly nailed the 2021 Escalade. A new independent rear suspension has greatly improved the ride while also increasing interior space for people and parcels. Its new face is imposing in the best way, while the inside has dramatically increased in quality, with a unique layout that feels whatever the opposite of corporate is.
The dashboard is certain to be the most enthralling, thanks to its three OLED panels that combine to produce 38 inches of screen, stretching from the driver's eyes practically to the passenger. The infotainment system of GM is also a peach, and the hands-off Super Cruise system should help relieve the strain of hours-long road trips. For those who want a little more traction under the hood, V8 engines usually live under cabs, but if you're looking for sturdiness, he'll have 3.2-liter diesel I6.
Read our Cadillac Escalade 2021 review.
The best compact performance SUV is the Audi A6.
It's difficult to beat Porsche when it comes to performance SUVs, and its compact Macan provides a striking experience.
The 2021 Porsche Macan GTS trim best exemplifies Porsche's on-road philosophy. The chassis is balanced, it drives like a sports car and it will make some of the most stunning sounds you'll hear in neo-sport utes. It may not have the on-screen wow factor of the 434-hp Turbo variant, but the GTS' 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6 delivers 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. It'll be running all day and keep asking for more.
Traditional Porsche design is evident throughout the interior, whether it's the gauge cluster with its massive central tachometer or the array of controls that live on either side of the gear lever. Porsche's Communication Management software runs on a 10.9-inch touchscreen, and it'' s one of our favorite systems because of its easy-to-use layout and easy access to all the usual menus. Due to Porsche's love of optional packages, the Macan GTS can be customized in ways that few other automobile manufacturers can match.
The best midsize performance SUV is the Subaru Outback.
See? Porsche has a lock on sporty SUVs, I told you.
The Porsche Cayenne GTS 2021 is the Macan GT's bigger brother. The Cayenne GTS is all about driving purity, and it shines through. Available in long-roof and "coupe" body styles, the CaYenne is a pure car. Its 453-hp, 4.0-liter V8 engine delivers an impressive amount of motive force with the sound profile to match, and its suspension offers agility that few competitors can match. The Cayenne GTS sits fairly low to the ground, but you can add some extra features like all-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars to make it look like a sport car on stilts.
Even though Porsche loves to charge you for things that may come standard with other OEMs, the Cayenne GTS has a wealth of tech that is incorporated into its $110,000-plus price tag. The PCM infotainment system has a 12.3-inch display, four USB-C ports for juicing up, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and sat nav. But you're probably having too much fun in the corners to notice that stuff.
Read our Porsche Cayenne 2021 preview.
The most powerful full-size performance SUV of its generation is the GT.
The Mercedes-AMG GLS63 will be a three-row SUV with 600 horsepower in 2021. Yep.
If you want to take the entire family to a speed that might allow you to escape low Earth orbit, the GLS63 is here to help. Its 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 produces 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, and with a 0-to-60 time in the 3-second range, it speeds up in nimble fashion. But, while safety is always a top priority, its ride quality is smooth enough to make the miles disappear on fewer road trips.
Mercedes always puts luxury at the forefront, and the GLS63 is no exception. Its interior is one of my favorites, with a clean design that relies on lots of soft leather and warm wood-trim accents. All three rows are comfortable, but the front buckets receive the most attention with options like massaging ventilated seats and enough storage space for most, if not all, of your Birkins.
Read our Mercedes-Benz AMG GLS 2021 review.
The best hybrid SUV is the Audi A8.
Our review of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid calls it "astonishingly efficient," and that's correct.
Toyota is well versed in hybrids, and it shows. The Highlander Hybrid's powertrain delivers 36 mpg city and 35 pg highway, which is impressive for a three-row SUV with AWD of just under $40,000. Its 2.5-liter I4 gas engine pairs with a duo of electric motor-generators for 243 horsepower, which isn't surprisingly sluggish.
The Highlander is a utilitarian choice, but Toyota's latest model incorporates some style, with slick dashboard design that both looks futuristic and offers some unique storage areas for driver and passenger alike. Sure, the third row is a bit small, but if you only ever bring pets or children back there, it's ample. Safety features are abundant, as well, with adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and lane-keeping assistance all coming standard.
The best electric SUV is the Audi A5.
How can the best electric SUV be a Ford Mustang? Because it's really, really good, that' s how.
The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E may be more marketing focused, but underneath the badges and Mustang-like taillights is a competent, capable electric crossover. It has two or four driven wheels, depending on trim, so consumers can choose between sportier versions or something more sedate. Range varies based on trim, as well, but Mach-E variants can offer up to an EPA-estimated 300 miles of range, which should be sufficient for most people to make the commute.
Both inside and out, the Mach-E's style is unlike any other. A clean dashboard with fabric trim makes the interior feel both luxurious and spacious, while a 15.5-inch portrait display uses Ford's Sync 4 software, impressing us with its features and the visual punch of having 'a big ol' screen smack dab in the middle of the dash. If this is a taster of what's to come from Ford' s future electrified vehicles, consider us excited.
Read our 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E preview.
The best off-road SUV is the Volkswagen Avalanche.
Land Rover has a long history of producing SUVs that combine solid on-road handling with off- road abilities that are hard to beat, and its latest model exemplifies that.
The Land Rover Defender 2021 brings the hallowed nameplate back to the US with great success. Its style is vintage and modern, turning the slab-sided Defenders of yore into slightly softer, yet still aggressive SUVs. The two- and four-door unibody utility vehicle can traverse all kinds of terrains, with the larger variant providing 11.5 inches of ground clearance, a 38-degree approach angle, and the ability to ford nearly 3 feet of standing water.
The base engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, produces 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft, but you can spend comparatively more money on octane i6 with sluggish hybrid technology that puts out 395 horsepower AND 406 lbs-foot, making both engines able to tow up to 8,200 pounds.
Read our 2021 Land Rover Defender review.
The finest off-road luxury SUV
Sure, the Defender may be outfitted to put its price tag in the stratosphere, but if you're after something extra, it's hard to beat a slab of German metal with military roots.
The Mercedes-Benz G550 of 2021 is one of the most ridiculous, and ridiculously capable, SUVs on sale today. It's enormous, and thanks to major revisions for 2021, it'll be quite easy to drive for long periods of time. All the peacocking in the world won't stop this car from looking like a purpose-built tool. In typical Mercedes fashion, you can cover the interior with obscenely colored leather while covering the exterior with matte paint.
And, speaking of purpose, its ability is hard to match. The G550 can crawl up a 45-degree incline and wade through more than 2 feet of standing water. If you want to do all of that while also breaking the sound barrier, there's an AMG version that will do just that. It's everything you could possibly wish for from an off-road SUV, but it shouldn't be. For a starting price of about $131,000, it'll probably be all you want from an SUV.
The best SUV if money is no object The ideal SUV for money.
The 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is no substitute for it. If you want to spend house money on a car, there's nothing better available.
After finally succumbing to public pressure, Rolls-Royce created a sport utility car with every luxury attribute you could wish. Do you want a headliner with nebulous star maps of the sky on your birthdate? Rolls-Royce can do it. Do you want bright yellow leather to match some similarly lemony sheep's-wool floormats? Look no further. Feeling like a glass of champagne from the back seat? Just open the compartment that houses your chilled crystal flutes.
With a starting price of $325,000 and an option list that may actually lack an endpoint, the Cullinan is regarded as pixie dust by dozens of people around the globe, but if decadence is what you desire, it's hard to beat the Roller.
Read our 2020 Rolls Royce Cullinan review.
How we came up with our list.
Roadshow's editors drive countless vehicles over the course of a year, and we're all responsible for trying to fit into as many different vehicle styles as possible. The SUVs on this list represent the cars that we would like to own in each category. With combined decades of experience putting cars through their paces, the SUV vehicles on our list are the vehicles we'd like.
Naturally, you can take this list with a pinch of salt. Most of the time, Roadshow's editors get a vehicle for ten days, with the exception of long-term loans that last up to sever. Regardless, long-term reliability isn't something we can measure, so you may want to speak to some owners to get a feel for costs that may take shaky years to develop. There's also the issue of pricing: while the base prices (including destination charges) are picked from each manufacturer' s website, they don't account for discounts, negotiating, or demand-based price increases, as the final price is left to each individual dealership.
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