As we well know, the world of SUVs continues to grow and evolve every year. It almost feels like there’s a new SUV announcement every few weeks. Automakers are spending more time and money to bolster their footing in this segment, which is expected to sell more than 53 million units by 2027. Success in this category is a must.
With all of the new nameplates, though, it’s often easy to overlook some of the best SUVs that have been around for 20-plus years.
Here we look at five SUVs—both in the mainstream and luxe categories—that are well known and continue to impress.
On the market: since 1998
What we like: Front grille, well appointed interior
Who’s it for: Parents juggling kids and high pressured work, with a penchant for road trips
First impressions aren’t permanent, but they do matter. One look at the Lexus RX350 and I was taken. The signature Lexus grille works best on the RX350. It’s large enough to stand out and make its presence known. It simultaneously screams luxe and sporty, without being obtuse.
On the road, the RX350 is more symphony than rock. The 3.5L V6 pushing 295 hp helps the RX350 sails along the road. Power is smooth and immediate, but also incredibly quiet. It doesn’t hit you, or your driving neighbours, over the head.
Inside, the cabin is serene and chock full of all the safety tech you would expect from Lexus. It’s all well appointed, with the right amount of visual cues to guide you on your drive.
One badass front grille, strong linear acceleration, and a sleek tech-filled interior—the 2020 Lexus RX350 checks nearly every box you want from a luxury SUV. If you’re shopping for a used model, check out our 2016 RX350 review here.
On the market: since 2003
What we like: Powerful with great CVT
Who’s it for: SUV lovers that want a V6 with greater road presence
The 2020 Nissan Murano may be the most understated SUV on this list, next to the RAV4. Understated certainly isn’t a negative in this situation, though.
Although it hasn’t received a major overhaul in a number of years, the Nissan Murano has aged well.
It takes advantage of Nissan’s superb CVT, which is paired to their 3.5L V6 engine packed with 260 horses. It’s a powerful, smooth shifter. And its wider stance works great for anyone looking for an SUV that has greater presence on the road.
Inside you’ll find classic Nissan styling. A mix of chunky buttons around a centralized screen. It works well, with a great “work flow” once you get used to where everything is placed.
The 2015 Murano was the first year of the redesigned, third-generation offering – check out our review here.
On the market: since 2000
What we like: Sporty design with room for seven
Who’s it for: Parents who want to haul ass when driving solo
Packing a 3.5L V6 engine capable of 290 hp, with seating for up to seven people, and one badass sport grille. The Acura MDX should be a heavy favourite for parents who need the extra space as their family grows, but don’t want to bemoan losing the sports coupe or sedan.
The Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD®), and 9-speed transmission makes the MDX a dream to drive. Shifts are slick, and it can take turns at much higher speeds than you might expect for a vehicle its size. Sequential SportShift® 9-speed automatic transmission
The seating tricks you into thinking you’re i
If you want a sporty high-end SUV, with three rows, look no further than the Acura MDX. Here’s a closer look at the 2019 MDX which gets the A-Spec sport appearance package.
On the market: since 1990
What we like: Smooth 10-speed automatic transmission
Who’s it for: SUV buyers who want a rugged look
Don’t sleep on the Ford Explorer. It may be easy to overlook it with the number of new models hitting the market, but the Explorer continues to be a rock solid SUV – and it’s completely redesigned for 2020.
Up front, the Explorer has a super clean design. The rotary gear shift dial creates a wealth of room in the centre console, while the infotainment setup minimizes button overload. Opt for the twin-panel moonroof to really feel the cabin open up. And, if you can, step up into the 3.0L Ecoboost engine to get a roaring 365 horses, paired to Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission.
For more power, there’s the new for 2020 Explorer ST – here’s our full review.
Seating is wide and comfortably firm across the board, which is great for longer hauls with the family. And, of course, the distinctive Ford look gives it an aggressive, truck-like appearance to help you command the highway trek.
Hyundai Santa Fe
On the market: since 2000
What we like: Great redesign, Turbocharged engine really enhances the drive experience
Who’s it for: Families that want luxe features at a great price
The elder statesman in Hyundai’s SUV roster, the Santa Fe has seen a lot of changes over the years. From major style updates to follow Hyundai’s evolving design language, to briefly seeing a third-row option at one stage.
2021 sees a completely new version of the long-running SUV. Read our 5 Big Changes Inside the Redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe.
The constant evolution has done well for the Santa Fe, as it continues to be a leader in the SUV category. Now, it’s looking as good as it ever has, with a strong refresh that gives it a strong look and feel.
In typical Hyundai fashion, you’ll be flush with features, even on the lower tier trims. That said, step up to the 2.0L Turbocharged GDI engine—it takes the Sante Fe to the next level.