Best Luxury SUVs for 2020
SUVs are a commanding force across the automotive landscape. This is especially true of luxury SUVs, which account for more than 60% of luxury vehicle sales. Manufacturers continue to introduce models to respond to demand, which has been stimulated by relatively low gas prices and SUVs’ increasingly car-like fuel economy. An SUV also provides special benefits, including an elevated driving position, available all-wheel drive and a large, flexible cargo area. It’s no wonder buyers are flocking to luxury SUVs despite the price premium they command over upscale sedans.
Luxury SUVs are distinct from their non-premium counterparts in several areas. Most vehicles in these categories boast upper-crust interior materials and build quality. The best examples offer pillow-soft suspensions that glide over even the roughest roads. Powertrain options run the gamut from fuel-sipping plug-in hybrids to immensely powerful 12-cylinder engines, with all manner of automatic transmissions on offer. And of course, there’s the prestige that comes with owning a vehicle that is a clear cut above an everyday SUV.
Our list of top-rated luxury SUVs is the result of hundreds of hours of driving, testing and comprehensive evaluation. We take each vehicle to a private test track, where we measure acceleration, braking and handling performance. Next, we drive it on a 115-mile loop that tests how it performs on city streets, through twisty mountain curves, and in high- and low-speed freeway conditions. Finally, our editors take a turn at the wheel and come to a consensus on an overall rating for the vehicle relative to its competitive set.
We know that the search for the perfect luxury SUV can seem daunting. Nearly 50 are on sale today, ranging from pint-sized crossovers to leather-lined, truck-based behemoths. That’s why we’ve whittled down the list to the nine best luxury SUVs according to our test results. Without further ado, here is Edmunds’ list of the best luxury SUVs available today.
About Small Luxury SUVs
A small crossover is the most cost-effective way to break into the luxury SUV segment. Compared to standard SUVs, these high-class crossovers are more customizable, have nicer interiors, offer more features, and are adorned with an illustrious badge, all in exchange for a higher sticker price. We have divided this segment into two classes. The tiny footprint of subcompact crossovers means that they primarily appeal to city dwellers or those who don’t often drive friends around town. Compacts are bigger and more accommodating for rear-seat passengers, and they also typically have more upscale interiors.
About Midsize Luxury SUVs
Naturally, midsize luxury crossover SUVs are more expensive than their subcompact and compact stablemates. But they aren’t prohibitively pricier, and growing families who need extra passenger or cargo room will appreciate the added versatility. The materials and build quality tend to be superior as well, and you’ll find high-end features that aren’t available on smaller SUVs.
About Full-Size Luxury SUVs
If you have a large family, frequently travel with friends, or need a vehicle that can tow your weekend watercraft, a full-size SUV is undoubtedly the way to go. With enough space to cosset adults in all three rows and generous cargo storage, these burly land yachts can do just about anything. They are generally more expensive than their midsize counterparts (exotics such as the Bentley Bentayga notwithstanding), a result of their larger size and increased use of premium materials.
About 3-Row Luxury SUVs
Although there are midsize SUVs that offer three rows of seating, third-row headroom and legroom measurements are typically modest at best. If you plan on transporting bigger kids or adults in the third row, you’ll want a full-size luxury SUV. Some even offer an extended-length option that increases the size of the cargo area, which is invaluable for families on road trips. Having said that, midsize three-row SUVs can be the best family luxury SUVs if you have little kids who don’t yet need a lot of passenger space.
About the Most Affordable Luxury SUVs
The smallest SUVs are also the most affordable, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While subcompacts have relatively low price tags, overall refinement may fall below the standard set by their lofty nameplates. We recommend comparing these models with others that are a size larger to determine whether the most affordable luxury SUVs are right for you.
Best 3-Row Luxury SUVs
Although there are midsize SUVs that offer three rows of seating, third-row headroom and legroom measurements are typically modest at best. If you plan on transporting bigger kids or adults in the third row, full-size SUVs tend to be the best family luxury SUVs. Some even offer an extended-length option that increases the size of the cargo area, which is invaluable for families on road trips. Having said that, midsize three-row SUVs can be the best family luxury SUVs if you have little kids who don’t yet need a lot of passenger space.
Most midsize SUVs now offer three rows, and the Audi Q7 is one of the best. It doesn’t have an abundance of room in the back, but cargo room is decent and the seats fold completely flat if you need extra storage. A third row is standard on the Audi Q7; it’s optional on many other midsize SUVs.
Acura might not be the first name you think of when it comes to luxury SUVs, but the MDX is well worth a look if you’re in the market for a well-appointed family hauler. In addition to a standard third row of seating, the MDX comes with an excellent list of standard features, making it a relative bargain too. It’s not the sportiest or most luxurious SUV out there, and some of the in-car tech and driver aids feel behind the times, but the MDX offers a lot for the money. The sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and powerful but smooth V6 don’t hurt either.
The Aviator may share its platform with the Ford Explorer, but there’s nothing mundane about this luxury SUV’s style. Convincingly upscale inside and out, the Aviator just might be the most impressive American luxury SUV on the market. Whether you go with the plug-in hybrid variant or the standard spec, you’ll enjoy big-time acceleration and exemplary refinement. Just don’t expect a roomy third row — the kids will fit back there, but adults won’t be happy.
There’s a big jump in third-row room — and price — between midsize and full-size SUVs. The Mercedes GLS-Class is considerably more expensive than a comparable Audi Q7, but seven adults will have no problem fitting into the big Benz. There’s also plenty of room behind the third row, and cargo space increases from sizable to gargantuan as you fold down those seats.
As a full-size SUV, the Navigator is a seven-seater with a more commodious back seat than midsize crossovers. The third-row seat bottom is raised higher than in some other SUVs, so adults will enjoy a more natural seating position. Although the cargo area is already quite roomy for the class, Lincoln also offers a longer Navigator L with more cargo room than the standard version.
Most Affordable Luxury SUVs
The smallest SUVs are also the most affordable, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While subcompacts have relatively low price tags, overall refinement may fall below the standard set by their lofty nameplates. With this in mind, we’ve chosen three smaller crossovers that offer good value in a compact wrapper.
The GLB gets double billing on this list because it’s not only one of the best small luxury SUVs, it’s also one of the most affordable luxury SUVs on the market. Starting well under $40,000, the GLB delivers a high-tech interior, optional seven-passenger seating and spunky turbocharged performance in a moderately muscular-looking package.
At $35,695 to start, the Audi Q3 is one of the most affordable small luxury crossovers, but it’s also among the most desirable. The Q3 offers easy-to-use technology, comfortable seats, a compliant ride and responsive steering. Standard features include a power tailgate, three-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof and more, making the Q3 a strong luxury value. It’s not the sportiest choice in the segment, and it doesn’t have the biggest trunk, but the Q3 is still a great car at a great price, no matter how you slice it.
The XC40 is Volvo’s first attempt at an SUV in the subcompact class. With a low starting price and tons of features, it’s safe to say Volvo nailed the value proposition. The XC40, which starts at $34,695, counts LED headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and genuine leather upholstery among its standard features. (Most cars in this class come with simulated leather.) Being a Volvo, the XC40 also comes standard with lane departure warning and forward collision warning. If you want to buy a car without getting swept up in expensive option packages, the XC40 might be the small luxury crossover for you.
Luxury SUV Features
While many luxury SUVs come well-equipped, they all offer myriad options and features for a somewhat custom feel. Look for frills such as leather upholstery, keyless entry and a sunroof for a true luxury experience. Heated and ventilated seats are must-haves for many shoppers but aren’t always available on smaller luxury SUVs. Modern safety features, including 360-degree parking cameras and blind-spot monitoring, are essential for easily placing large SUVs on the road.
Choosing the Right Luxury SUV for You
There are dozens of luxury SUVs spread over four size classes, so it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Subcompact and compact crossovers offer a strong value statement to city dwellers, empty nesters, and those who simply want something that stands out from a typical SUV. Small families that need a bit more passenger and cargo space will likely find an appropriate vehicle in the midsize class. Full-size SUVs are perfect for growing families or, again, individuals who just want to make a statement. No matter which class appeals to you the most, Edmunds has the tools to point you in the right direction in your search for the perfect luxury SUV.