Today’s large-family vehicle is the three-row SUV. Though truck-based full-size SUVs, which we put through their paces in the 2018 Full-Size SUV Challenge, also offer three rows of seats, most shoppers who seek a minivan alternative do without the greater bulk and fuel costs of a vehicle designed to tow, opting instead for what’s usually described as a large crossover SUV.
So, for our 2020 3-Row SUV Challenge, we set out to test a few newcomers and two redesigns along with a couple of strong returning models included in our previous 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge. Unfortunately, the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander wasn’t ready in time for our testing and will have to take on our new benchmark head-to-head soon. We elected not to include any other models that hadn’t been substantially updated since weaker showings in previous Challenges.
We determined the winner by scoring 19 separate categories including everything from drivability and mileage to interior space and technology, as detailed in our How We Tested article. Each vehicle is evaluated as equipped and priced, and though these are relatively feature-loaded representations, our results cannot represent their respective model lineups as a whole.
Here are the seven SUV competitors and how they finished:
1. 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD
2. 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
3. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion
4. 2020 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD
5. 2020 Subaru Ascent Touring
6. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country
7. 2020 Honda Pilot AWD Elite
Prices ranged from $46,055 to $54,420, and all seven models were equipped with all-wheel drive. All were equipped with V-6 engines except the Ford and Subaru, which had turbocharged four-cylinders. All had a pair of captain’s chairs for the second row in lieu of bench seats, which made for a total of seven seats in all but the Ford, which had six seats total.
Our judges were:
- Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief
- Kelsey Mays, senior consumer affairs editor
- Brian Wong, Los Angeles bureau chief
Though there were tight groupings based on our scores — especially of the top two and the bottom three, we considered this a strong batch of competitors overall. The key is to check out the strongest and weakest aspects of the models, laid out below in descending order of importance to their ranking, and find out what’s most important to you using the following graphic showing the various wins and losses at a glance.