Top 10 best large SUVs 2021
The best large SUVs combine the space and practicality of an MPV, some of the all-terrain capability of a 4x4, and a touch of limo-like luxury. Below, we run through the best large SUVs on the market.
If you pay attention to passing cars on the road, chances are the majority of them will be SUVs. That’s because they continue to be the preferred type of car for UK buyers and with a range of powertrains available, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and electric, there’s an SUV to suit virtually every lifestyle and budget.
They’ve only become popular in the last decade but SUVs have actually been around a lot longer than you might think. The vehicle dubbed ‘the first SUV’ was the Jeep Wagoneer, which was born in the US in the early 1960s. This car never made it to Europe, making the British-built Range Rover the first SUV to appear here in the UK later that decade.
Those early examples, as you can imagine, were much more rugged and utilitarian than many of the SUVs you see on sale today. But they did feature some of the same qualities that make modern equivalents so desirable today, such as a spacious interior, a higher driving position and extra road presence.
In 2021, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to SUVs but it’s the large ones that remain the most desirable. Their imposing stance and vast interior spaces have become synonymous with luxury and wealth yet, despite the stereotypical view of opulent, expensive large cars, manufacturers offer several large SUVs that are aimed at family buyers. Lots of seats, a big boot, along with the latest in-car technology and driver safety aids are what these buyers prioritise, and all at a reasonable price.
Thanks to modern engines, including the hybrid technology mentioned above, lightweight materials and improved aerodynamics, these large SUVs are far more economical than before, making them easier for anyone to buy. Many SUVs are also beginning to be offered with fully electric powertrains, such as the Volkswagen ID.4 and the Tesla Model X, as manufacturers continue to prepare for the ban on the sale of internal combustion engine-powered cars in 2030.
As more and more families choose to shop for SUVs, manufacturers have also been quick to respond with clever and practical design touches to fit every lifestyle. As well as large seven-seater SUVs, a broad range of small and medium SUVs have tempted swathes of buyers away from traditional saloon cars and hatchbacks.
Here’s our top 10 list of the best large SUVs on the market today.
Proving that a quality SUV isn’t necessarily the preserve of the extremely well-off, the very capable Kia Sorento is perhaps the unsung hero in the large 4x4 class. While it can’t quite match the upmarket cachet of models from Audi or Land Rover, it benefits from an enormous interior with space for seven and a vast boot. It also has the ability to tow up to 2,500kg, making it a superb vehicle for pulling a caravan or boat.
A 2.2-litre diesel has plenty of urge for overtaking and can manage around 42mpg – this is an impressive figure for such a big car. There are new hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, too, and the latter should definitely prove more economical if you keep the battery topped up. All models are well equipped and great value-for-money, plus the Sorento comes with Kia’s brilliant seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. While it doesn’t have the polish of its luxurious European counterparts, the Sorento is loved by owners – it came first out of all the cars rated in our 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey.
The latest generation Land Rover Discovery had been a long time coming but it was worth the wait. It made a shift even further upmarket and, as a result, it’s become a very desirable family SUV. It also marked a big leap in terms of technology, and it’s much lighter than before thanks to advanced manufacturing techniques. It’s still huge, with even more room inside for seven occupants. Even when every seat is taken, there’s 258 litres of space in the boot for shopping.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine will be popular with company-car drivers and gets the Discovery from 0-62mph in a respectable 8.3 seconds, despite its average 43mpg fuel economy. Larger 3.0-litre engines are available, too, and the Land Rover still promises unrivalled off-road ability. While most families are likely to stay on the tarmac, its towing ability and five-star Euro NCAP safety rating are sure to appeal.
Fitting into the range above the smaller Skoda Karoq SUV, the Kodiaq feels like a proper family SUV rather than a crossover, with grown-up style that adds a real feeling of sophistication. This continues with the interior, where impressive materials are used alongside an ergonomic layout. Now only available as a seven-seater, the Kodiaq is even more competitive and is a pleasant environment for all occupants.
That's even true for the driver, as the car is decent to drive, with plenty of power from an engine range shared with other cars across the VW Group brands. With five seats in place, the Kodiaq will take 620 litres of luggage, while optional four-wheel drive adds security and the ability to do some light off-roading. Skoda consistently scores well in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey too.
Volvo always had a reputation for making sensible, practical cars and it wasn’t a surprise when it entered the SUV market with the first Volvo XC90. This quickly became one of the most popular SUVs in the UK and remained on sale for a remarkable 12 years. That meant this second-generation XC90 had big boots to fill. Fortunately, it’s little short of brilliant. It delivers the comfort and tranquillity inside that the Swedish carmaker is becoming known for, while its interior is one of the most luxurious and its exterior one of the most stylish on the market. It’s loaded with technology, including a large infotainment screen that’s as intuitive to use as any tablet computer and it’s currently the safest car money can buy.
Diesel engines are the best choice, as the petrol is a little noisier than you’d expect for a car of this class and the hybrid doesn’t really deliver its claimed economy. It’s really good at what it does, but it doesn’t quite beat all its competitors in every area.
Audi design is among the most distinctive on the road and there’s little denying the sheer visual presence of the Audi Q7 flagship SUV. Its 2019 angular lines were softened with a mid-life facelift but it still looks big and has a huge grille along with the obligatory LED headlight graphics that grab attention wherever it goes. Beneath the metal, it’s no less impressive. There’s a range of diesel engines, all of which are reasonably fuel-efficient and there’s a high-performance version called the SQ7, which unsurprisingly isn’t.
Despite its size, the Q7 is surprisingly good fun to drive, while also being a very comfortable car for long journeys. There’s plenty of luxurious practicality, with seating for seven and the whole car bristles with cutting-edge technology. On the downside, some drivers find that the Q7 is just too vast to be manageable on tight roads, but in its element this car takes some beating.
The Peugeot 5008 is one of the more eye-catching seven-seat SUVs and boasts plenty of space for family life. Its rugged looks combine with a high driving position too appeal to a wide audience. Inside, there's a futuristic dashboard with ergonomic controls, Peugeot’s impressive i-Cockpit instrument display and a well built cabin. The five main seats are spacious, but the third row is more limited and naturally boot space suffers while they're in use.
Every version is well equipped, with autonomous emergency braking and the latest smartphone connectivity tech, but the 5008 does get significantly more expensive as you move up the range. You can expect decent economy from the diesel engines and the 148bhp diesel makes the 5008 a relaxing car to drive. Four-wheel drive isn't available, so bear this in mind if you want your SUV to be capable of off-roading.
The designer of the original Range Rover would be amazed to see how far it has developed from the comfortable, but not flamboyant, original. Today’s model is more like a private jet with big wheels than merely civilised – yet its off-road prowess remains largely intact. Whether you spend £75,000 or more than £160,000, you’re guaranteed a cosseting driving experience surrounded by leather, wood and state-of-the-art technology.
Whether you’re the driver or one of the passengers, you’ll enjoy sumptuous comfort and an ambience unrivalled in this class. For more rear passenger space, you can choose a long-wheelbase version, or a four-seat option with two large ‘armchairs’ in the back. Despite that, you can’t get seven seats. Petrol and hybrid engines are available, but the diesels are the most well rounded choice. Either way, you’ll need to budget for significant fuel consumption and VED (road tax).
BMW has taken the luxury, comfort and technology of the 7 Series saloon and injected it into a large SUV with seating for seven. The result is the impressive X7, a boxy car with vast amounts of interior space and a range of powerful engines. Even the entry-level 30d model has a 261bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine, which provides plenty of pulling power and gets the car from 0-62mph in seven seconds - no mean feat for a car of the X7's size and weight.
The interior is smart, plush and laden with tech, and there's 750 litres of boot space available with the third row of seats folded. It may not be quite as good as a Range Rover when it comes to towing and off-roading, and the styling is best described as divisive, but the X7 is good to drive and extremely comfortable.
The Touareg is a VW-badged sister model to the Audi Q7, but as well as lacking a little of the Audi brand’s aspirational cachet, the Touareg also lacks an optional third row of seats – automatically removing it from some buyers’ wishlists. The Touareg is a bit cheaper than the Audi, but a little more ordinary, too. That said, its bulk and imperious grille mean it retains a commanding presence on the road. It’s not as much fun to drive as other VW Group models on the same platform – namely the much more upmarket Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga – but it’s a solid all-rounder. It even has some expensive and exotic options such as active all-wheel steering.
There are two V6 diesel engines on offer, both punchy but offering unremarkable economy, and now a thirsty V6 petrol too. The interior lifts the Touareg well above the ordinary though, thanks to a fantastic tech-laden 'Innovision' layout that pips all comers for style and design quality – top-spec models get a huge 15-inch central touchscreen and a 12.3-inch instrument display. As a VW range flagship, the Touareg is also stacked to the gunwales with safety and driver-assistance technology.
Porsche’s bold decision to launch the Cayenne SUV back in 2002 helped set the scene for a swathe of luxurious and expensive road-focused 4x4s. Some brands are still jumping on the bandwagon today, while the Cayenne itself is now its third generation. It’s still a stunningly capable road machine that, especially in outrageously rapid Cayenne Turbo form, appears to defy the laws of physics. However in recent years rivals such as BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Range Rover have all chipped away at the Cayenne’s raison d’etre with high-performance road-focused SUVs of their own.
But the Cayenne can hold its own and then some, in its latest guise combining scorching performance with remarkable everyday practicality – although it’s not as handy as the Audi Q7 with its extra row of seats. The Cayenne is also hugely expensive to buy and to run, although there’s an e-Hybrid plug-in that will save company-car users a packet in tax. Porsche launched an additional bodystyle called the Cayenne Coupe in 2019, featuring a plunging roofline and a pop-up rear spoiler and a small performance boost with the Coupe Turbo achieving 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.