Buying Guides

The 7 Best 7-Passenger SUVs Offer Size and Versatility

These are your do-it-all SUVs with a third row

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

If you have a family that continues to grow or a find yourself in need of more cargo space than a typical five-seat SUV can offer, you're either looking at a minivan or a three-row SUV. Minivans are great for moving people and items from place to place, but if you've got more than suburban cruises to school or the grocery store planned, a seven-passenger SUV is the way to go. More capable and interesting than a minivan SUVs offer a package that's engaging, spacious, comfortable and well-equipped. While not as nimble as cars or crossovers, seven-passenger SUVs also offer surprisingly good driving dynamics. These vehicles can handle a wide variety of situations, making them some of the best on the road.

2017 Mazda CX-9


for the driving enthusiast

  • PROS: Good looks, sporty steering and handling, luxury-like interior and technology, available AWD.
  • CONS: Could use a little more power at high speeds, cargo space isn’t massive.

The Mazda CX-9 ($31,520 base MSRP) has better steering and handling than many cars. It’s the most enjoyable SUV to drive for the money, and it also features an interior appointed with materials that seem well above its price point. One of the best values out there, the CX-9 is a really looker too. Mazda’s Kodo design language manages to transition well onto this three-row platform. The slick 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque) has plenty of grunt to get the CX-9 moving off the line quickly and is respectable at high speeds. The beautiful wood trim and creamy leather seats feel like they should be in a vehicle with a much higher price tag. Cargo space is the only thing to complain about and even that is pretty generous.

2017 Toyota Highlander

  • PROS: Hybrid option, spacious first two rows of seating, quiet and comfortable ride available AWD.
  • CONS: Base engine is underpowered, body roll, tight third row.

Toyota's Highlander ($30,490 base MSRP) has a solid reputation that it has earned over the span of a number of years. It feels large and confidence inspiring on the road and has a well-laid-out interior with plenty of room and some seriously comfortable seats. It's available in a number of trims and even comes in hybrid form, allowing you to drive a big vehicle but stay economical. The base engine is the 2.7-liter four-cylinder (185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque). We recommend you upgrade to the 3.5-liter V6 (295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque) or the hybrid 3.5-liter V6 (306 hp) due to the four-cylinder’s lackluster performance. Once V6 is beneath the hood, plan on being quite happy, the mill moves the Highlander about easily and makes driving the three-row rid a real pleasure.

2017 Honda Pilot

  • PROS: Smooth and compliant ride, comfortable versatile interior, plenty of storage cubbies, available AWD.
  • CONS: Infotainment system’s controls are touchy and not intuitive, transmission could be smoother.

Honda's Pilot ($30,595 base MSRP) is as practical as the rest of the company's lineup. It's reasonably attractive, well-appointed, powerful and comfortable. It enjoys a reputation as a reliable and stalwart SUV thanks to many years of the model providing solid performance and worry-free ownership to buyers. Available only with Honda’s well-known 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque) this is one time when variety truly isn’t needed. The V6 engine offers good performance and efficiency and is as reliable and easy to use as the rest of the vehicle. You won’t find an easier interior to live with outside of a minivan. The Pilot is outfitted for families and is a wonderful thing to have in your garage if you need a lot and don’t want the Honda Odyssey minivan.

2017 Kia Sorento


for the value shopper

  • PROS: Well-priced, comfortable, great infotainment controls, available AWD, safe.
  • CONS: Base four-cylinder is not the most potent, third-row seats can be tight, cheaper interior materials.

Kia has made leaps and bounds in the last decade or so in terms of quality. The Sorento ($25,400 base MSRP) is one of the vehicles that has led the charge by offering a package that has everything you could need at a reasonable price. It's not the best in any one department but in our mind ranks high in just about every category - comfort, performance, reliability, technology, design and styling. Overall the Sorento is a great value. It comes with one of three engine options. Go with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque) or the 3.3-liter V6 (245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque). The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a little too wimpy for the Sorento’s larger body.

2017 Nissan Armada

  • PROS: 8,500 lb towing capacity, powerful V8, rugged exterior and plush interior.
  • CONS: Steering too light, large and heavy feeling on the road, third row can be tight.

Nissan took an interesting approach to the new Armada ($44,900 base MSRP) by bringing the global Patrol platform to the states appointing it with a luxurious interior and technology feature and a powerful engine. This big body on frame rig is wonderful to drive and about as comfortable as things get. It feels more like a truck than some of the other unibody vehicles out there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s powered by a 5.2-liter V8 (390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque), which has plenty of power to tow some serious weight. The V8 paired with the classic body-on-frame construction make the Armada a towing force to be reckoned with as it can handle up to 8,500 lbs. That might make you think the Armada is just a workhorse, but sit inside and you’ll find it’s a plush and comfy ride.

2017 Dodge Durango

  • PROS: Powerful V8, good towing capacity of up to 7,400 lbs and a nice interior and exterior.
  • CONS: Thirsty in both V6 and V8 form, large footprint overall, not many driver aids standard.

Rumors of the Dodge Durango's ($29,995 base MSRP) demise have swirled the last couple years, but we're thrilled to still see this sweet ride in Dodge's lineup. It's arguably one of the best looking three-row SUVs out there today and offers tons of space and plenty of power. The 3.6-liter V6 (295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque) is a wonderful engine, but if you really want to get serious, you get the Durango with the 5.7-liter V8 (360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque). The Durango isn’t just about muscle, though. It’s a comfortable and spacious ride with a generous third row and decent cargo room. While it might not be as luxuriously appointed as the Armada, it’s not nearly as expensive as Nissan’s big boy is either, making it a boon for many folks.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

  • PROS: Attractive and well-appointed inside and out, easy to use technology, good performance with V6.
  • CONS: Cargo capacity isn’t wonderful, some cheap-looking interior materials.

Hyundai's Santa Fe ($30,800 base MSRP) is one of the best bargains out there. It features an easy to use infotainment system, powerful engine, generous third row and good looks both inside and out. It’s not extremely luxurious and isn’t the fastest or most rugged out there, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a vehicle for the everyman and will get the job done easily and in style for most families. Also, it won’t drain your whole bank account to do it. Powering Hyundai’s three-row vehicle is a potent 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque). The engine has more than enough power to handle what most people need and the handling capabilities are good as well. If you’re looking for a reliable and feature-packed option, this is it.

7-Seaters Don't Compromise

  • More manufacturers are outfitting them with both room and the latest tech.
  • Gas mileage for some models is better than expected.
  • Newcomers up the interior and exterior styling game