CARS.COM — For some families, getting a three-row SUV is about getting all the passenger seats possible. But many others are willing to give up one seat in the second row for the convenience and comfort of individual captain's chairs.
Captain's chairs can offer an alternative path for kids to get to the third-row seats without needing to move the second-row seat, which can speed your loading in the school carpool lane.
That's even more of a convenience if the SUV's second row is occupied by one or two child-safety seats. Several new SUVs have tilt-and-slide second-row captain's chairs that work with an unoccupied forward-facing child seat installed, such as the seats in newer GM SUVs like the 2018 Buick Enclave — but that's still cumbersome, and you're still out of luck if it's a rear-facing infant seat. Some makers, including Nissan with its Pathfinder, have second-row bench seating that does that, too, even with a child seat in place, but nothing beats a captain's chair pass-through. (If you plan to take advantage of this, note that some SUVs put a rear-seat console in the space between the seats and wouldn't be suitable for your needs.)
Captain's chairs also can help keep the SUV's real captain, the one in the driver's seat, happy by helping to keep the peace between the passengers in the back. The chairs separate kids in the second row in their own space rather than having squabbling kids "draw a line" on the bench and dare each other not to cross it (as they inevitably they do).
And in most cases, for kids or adults, the captain's chairs are more comfortable seats, not to mention the opening offers extra foot space for those consigned to the third row.
It's important for family SUV shoppers to note that this list covers the availability of captain's chairs in any version of the vehicle, but that availability can vary widely in the price and trim levels where you can get the seating arrangement. The Nissan Armada, for example, offers them on the top trim level, while the Volkswagen Atlas — an all-new model in the Volkswagen lineup for 2018 that won Cars.com's Best Of award and is new to this list — has them optional on all but the base model, and the Enclave has them standard on all trim levels.
If you're shopping for a late-model used SUV, you can check out the links above for three-row SUVs with captain's chairs from earlier model years.
2018 Three-Row SUVs That Offer Captain's Chairs
- 2018 Acura MDX
- 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid
- 2018 Buick Enclave
- 2018 Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV
- 2018 Chevrolet Suburban
- 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe
- 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
- 2018 Dodge Durango
- 2018 Ford Expedition, Expedition Max
- 2018 Ford Explorer
- 2018 Ford Flex
- 2018 GMC Acadia
- 2018 GMC Yukon, Yukon XL
- 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe
- 2018 Lexus GX 460
- 2018 Lincoln MKT
- 2018 Lincoln Navigator, Navigator L
- 2018 Nissan Armada
- 2018 Tesla Model X
- 2018 Toyota Highlander
- 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- 2018 Toyota Sequoia
- 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
The revised 2018 models of these SUVs are not yet on sale. The 2017 versions offer captain's chairs, and the 2018s are expected to have them (we will update this post when details are released).
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