By on September 27, 2017

2014 Range Rover, Image: Jaguar Land Rover

Last week we took entries for the worst utility vehicle of the past decade. There were certainly plenty of submissions; it’s always easy to dream up crossover criticism (less dream, more nightmare in the case of the Acura ZDX).

This time around, we flip the question: What’s the best utility vehicle of the past 10 years?

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base rear 34

As before, we’re limiting this question to vehicles sold between model years 2008 and 2017. Selected vehicles must have been available in the North American market for consideration.

While sales figures are an indication a particular vehicle is popular, they cannot be used to conclude a utility vehicle is good. A utility vehicle gobbling up market share could simply be a result of factory incentives, suspicious inventory trickery, or fleet sales. Overall, just don’t use sales as primary argument for a best of the breed selection.

So what does make for a “best” utility vehicle, as we seek today?  A few qualifiers to ponder:

  • Substantive cargo area
  • Reliability
  • Affordability to many
  • Fuel economy
  • Flexible seating
  • All-wheel drive
  • Practical size

At risk of being labeled a fanboy, a term thrown around these pages frequently and with indelicate fervor, I’ve made a single selection as example. And it’s not the Range Rover up there — don’t be ridiculous.

2017 Honda CR-V

For 20 years and five generations now, the Honda CR-V has propelled North America away from Home Depot and around the occasional wet or leaf-covered road in relative space, comfort, and economy. The interiors hold up, engines and components are reliable, and resale value is decent or good even for high-mileage examples. It’s not luxuriously expensive from new.

2017 Honda CR-V Cargo Area, Image: American Honda

In upper trims with metallic paint, it can look suitably upscale. Powered via all-wheel drive and CVT, the CR-V is rated 25 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. It’s more useful than subcompact CUV entries, as it’s not too small. It doesn’t have the third-row seat of larger family haulers that compromises passenger and cargo space 97 percent of the time, when the rearmost row is not in use.

2017 Honda CR-V

It’s relatively a lot of things, to kind of a lot of people. I’m probably wrong though, so tell us your pick for best utility vehicle.

[Images: The Truth About Cars; Jaguar Land Rover; Honda]

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140 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Best Utility Vehicle of the Past 10 Years?...”


  • avatar
    seth1065

    I was gonna go with a Honda Pilot, seems to meet everything you laid out, the only minus is there is not a lot of room behind the third row, but thats about it. The third row is a god saver feature to have , we only now use ours about once a month but when all three kids were home it was used often and well worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      I almost said Pilot, but CRV is enough for most and more affordable and probably reliable. maybe my next car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      So I just bought a ’03 Pilot from a friend for a “deal you can’t refuse” price and am just acclimating to commuting in it. The third row in these first gen Pilots is really a kids-only type of setup, and even then not really made for road trip length trips. But nonetheless even I at 5’11” can manage a 30 minute ride back there without undue complaint, something that can’t be said of something like the current Tahoe’s third row (or god forbid, the 4Runner’s optional third row). Aside from that, I really get why people like these car based midsize CUVs so much. Just a really nice driving, comfortable, very roomy do it all vehicle. I think I’ll even try driving some snowy fire roads this winter to see how it stacks up with my 4Runner offroad (said trail is a trifling nothing for the 4Runner to tackle, I suspect the Pilot will have clearance issues). I need to run a few tanks to get an idea of MPG, but I think its’ rated not so hot (even using the old pre-’07 standards). 15city/20highway per the sticker.

      I think in practical terms, most people would pick the CRV for the lower price and noticeably better MPG comparing contemporary CRVs/Pilots.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        We have an ‘08 Pilot, which we have owned from new. It’s the AWD version. On a good day, it will get 20 mpg at 65, with the a/c running and 2-3 people and stuff. It is surprisingly NOT capable in snow, even when shod with Michelin X-Ice snows all around. The “slip and grip” all wheel drive system doesn’t work that well and the traction control is far too aggressive. Our ‘94 Previa All-Trac, when shod with Blizzaks, was far more capable, despite its lower ground clearance. I don’t know if it was the rear wheel bias or the simple but effective viscous fluid clutch that accounted for the difference. The Toyota also got better gas mileage, even though the vehicle weight was about the same. Of course it did have a smaller, less powerful engine.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The Acura MDX solves everything that’s wrong with the Pilot, but costs a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        dal are you referring to the AWD performance or what?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          AWD performance, interior quality, features, and handling.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The Pilot’s upright rear end which yields substantially more utility makes the MDX a non-starter (for me). I’m curious as to what were the substantive engineering differences between the Pilot’s VTM-4 system with the twin wet clutch packs and whatever the MDX was using in that first generation. For whoever cars, the gen 1 MDX also has a superior approach angle iirc.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The MDX system starts with the hardware of the Pilot’s system, but then adds a few things: 1) the ability to shift torque (up to 100% of rear axle torque) to one rear wheel or the other, which gives the system the ability to “push” out of corners with the outside wheel; 2) different gearing in the torque transfer unit that slightly overdrives the rear wheels; and 3) more willingness to transfer more torque rearward (up to 70%) under a variety of driving conditions. It’s more about dry-road handling than adverse weather, but it does have good effects in adverse weather too.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I would have to grudgingly agree with the Honda CR-V. I have compared these with RAV 4s and the Toyotas always come off cheap by comparison, and only in recent years has the RAV been comparable in size.

    Our old 2002 CR-V really was a workhorse for us, and our recent purchase of a CPO 2015 CR-V I’m sure will serve us well for the foreseeable future.

    Too bad no domestic manufacturer has created a vehicle half as good as to reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Seconded. We run a 2013 diesel CRV, having previously owned a 2004 CRV that served us well. It’s an excellent car, big enough for a family of four, easy to drive, and cheap to run.

      Here in the UK, the CRV doesn’t sell anything like as well as it does in the US, with our crossover market dominated by the Nissan Qashqai (Rogue) and Ford Kuga (Escape).

    • 0 avatar

      I meant to dog the RAV4 a bit, but I forgot. In my eyes it’s had a worse ride and quality for quite some time.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      After all I said, though, I don’t want a CR-V for my daily driver. I do like the latest Equinox, however, but I’m a Chevy guy at heart.

    • 0 avatar
      mmorales

      I’ll second this. We’ve had the latest version for ~6 months, and it has been a great vehicle. The more time I spend with it the more I like it. Our particular situation is a one vehicle couple, live in the Pacific NW (hilly, lots of outdoors stuff). Things I’ve been impressed with:

      – A great road trip/camping vehicle. Can’t think of a better vehicle for camping or road tripping. Easy and confident on back roads, does dirt roads well, cruises quietly and comfortably on the freeway, holds a mountain of stuff (bigger on the inside than the outside).

      – Had in-laws out for the eclipse and drove down to Oregon and the back seats are super roomy with great sightseeing. 4 tall adults road trip/sightsee great in this car.

      – While not a sports car or a truck, it does *everything* better than it should. On back roads, it easily goes up to the maximum speed the wife will endure (and the dog’s carsickness). Good on dirt forest service roads for hiking. Swallows enormous amounts of stuff at the Home Depot or the garden store. Gets perfectly decent gas mileage (regularly get 33+ on the freeway and windy highways).

      – I actually really like the CVT with this turbo 4. CRVs are thick as thieves in my extended family, so I’ve owned or driven nearly every version. And the current CVT+T4 is the best powertrain. I love manuals, and have never been willing to buy a CVT before, but the tuning with this engine is impeccable. It is even better than the V6+standard auto in the Acura RDX (really a V6 CRV). The low end grunt of the T4 really cheers up the CVT, and the CVT hides any turbo lag with ‘downshifts’. It scoots around like an electric in urban driving, and mimics a standard auto when you floor it. Fast enough to get out of the way, and great gas mileage.

      Are there better cars/trucks for various purposes? Of course. I’d buy a little sport hatch or the civic SI as a second car. But for a single car family, or as the ‘do everything’ vehicle for a couple or small family, I’d recommend the current CRV without hesitation. You never know how good a car will be till you live with it for awhile, and the latest CRV has exceeded my expectations.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I have to believe the Toyota 4runner is on the list. Seems to check all the right boxes except gas mileage could be better. Body on frame, dependable, retains value well, plenty of room, AWD option. Affordability is subjective. But for an SUV that is essentially unchanged since 2010, the demand is still there with a rabid fan base. They must be doing something right. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating in this context; the fact that the VIN has a “J” (made in Japan) means a lot to some people.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      I wanted to love the 4Runner, but I got in a $45k Limited version to see the interior of a $25k vehicle. And the low seating position/high floor is just too compromised for off-road ability I’ll realistically almost never use. Agree they’ll last forever though.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Limited 4Runner seems like a weird choice given the vehicle’s construction and ability.

        The best move is either go Ace of Base SR5 or with one of the off road trims.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Believe Limited is the only one with full time AWD? Or is it LSD? And more importantly, with ventilated seats. Off Road trims are for sure very capable, but I go offroad about 4 times a year (during hunting season) so it’s overkill for me.

          • 0 avatar
            zip89123

            Yep, my paid for 4Runner wins all the categories except mpg, and mine has AWD.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            If Toyota saw fit to make an SR5 type trim with some sort of standalone upgrade to a transfer case with a “fulltime” 4wd option with an open center diff, that would be great.

            It’s funny to track the evolution of how they offered the 4Runner’s 4wd transfer case options:

            3rd gen:
            ’96 launched in the US exclusively with “part time” 4wd systems: 2Hi, 4Hi, 4 low, with a hard 50/50 front to back torque split, not intended for dry pavement actuation. “Multi-mode” 4wd becomes available on ’99 4Runner limited IIRC, then democratized to SR5s as well for ’01 and ’02.
            4th gen:
            V6s get a multi-mode 4wd with dash-knob actuation and push-button locking center diff (2H, 4Hi , 4 low), either 4wd modes can have center diff locked or unlocked. v8s get a fulltime system with either 4Hi or 4 low, with push button center diff lock.

            5th gen:
            2010 SR5s and Trails move back to a manual j-pattern t-case(!) with part time-only functionality. ’13 sees the introduction of a dash-mounted 4wd dial, still a part time t-case up to the present day.
            Limiteds get the same old full-time 4wd system with selectable low range and locking center diff (GX use this as well).

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I think what was described here was an AWD minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Exactly what I was going to post. As uncool as some may think they are, minivans tick all the boxes. (It has to be AWD to fit the list of criteria above.)
      And when you get right down to it, no one really cares what YOU drive, they only care about what THEY drive.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Minivans are just too big. They’re great if you need 7-person capacity, but they aren’t a good substitute for the millions of 5-pax CUVs/SUVs out there that people buy in droves.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Mazda to their credit offered a “mini” minivan. In theory, it was not much different than a CX-5, yet it bombed in the USDM. Curious.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          The 5 passenger lifted hatches have very little practicality, and very small cargo areas. This pretty much disqualifies them.

          Since the AWD Sienna best fits all the options. That’s the winner.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Our ’98 MPV was a fantastic do it all vehicle, hampered slightly by the fixed 2nd row captains chairs (could slide, but removal required unbolting), and of course the wheezy powertrain. The 3rd row was usable by adults owing to not having your legs up high. Cargo room behind the third row was also not very much, only 11 cu ft IIRC. It was quite compact externally too, just 183.5″ long, 6 inches shorter than a Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            The idea of the AWD Sienna is great, but they’re certainly not very popular. If they’re supposed to be practical, not quite sure if a $49k plus minivan without a spare tire qualifies.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Toyota Sienna AWD, if we’re pedantically following your criteria.

    Subjectively, though, I’d lean more toward the last-gen Lexus GX 470/460.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Another for the Sienna AWD.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Best: Jeep JKU Wrangler. Go anywhere; do anything; don’t have to be afraid to get it dirty. Never once got stuck in mine over 9 years of ownership, including mud and blizzards. Factory stock from day one.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Cramped interior kills it for me. Fails on the “utility” side of things IMO. 4Runner has practically speaking every bit of the capability, with a big dose of added utility and everyday usability/comfort.

      • 0 avatar

        How was the FJ Cruiser in comparison on the passenger and cargo utility front?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Compared to the 4Runner definitely worse, but I’d take it over the JKU. The Wranglers roll bars totally kill interior room and in general intrude upon both things and people on the interior.

          • 0 avatar

            The lack of refinement alone in the Wrangler would cross it off any daily duty activities, or list I’d make for someone of everyday drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “The Wranglers roll bars totally kill interior room and in general intrude upon both things and people on the interior.”

            Not nearly as badly as you’re letting on, gtem. Not only that, but those roll bars also make it safer against side collisions and rollovers than most of the competition. A friend of mine got hit near the rear wheel by a heavy sedan and while it needed repairs, it was drivable in days while the other car was totaled. She drove that jeep another 5 years before trading it in on a motorcycle. (She just bought herself a new JKU.)

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Strangely, gtem, I suffered none of those symptoms. By no means cramped, plenty of room for ‘typical’ utility use plus the ability to tow a trailer for those bulky items that won’t fit inside (never needed a trailer myself) and very open air, meaning even 20-30 bags of mulch can be carried with aplomb. It was also reasonably comfortable for highway driving, as it was my main daily driver for over 8 years and made many 1500-mile trips and even achieved 25mpg on the freeway on those trips.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I would have to agree with the CRV as the best utility vehicle of the past ten years, but I would go with the RAV4 today. It is still available with a drivetrain that will retain its utility and value when you’re trying to sell your 2018 in 2027.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ford Mustang GT.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Hmmm there is some truth to that choice. It’s more space efficient than older Mustangs since it has a decent size trunk and folding rear seats. Enough space for grocery getting or occasional garden/lumber store run.

  • avatar
    kkop

    IMO, any similar-sized crew cab pickup is of better value and utility than a SUV/CUV. Also more likely to come with option of 4WD.

  • avatar

    Porsche Cayenne

    It ticks all the boxes you mentioned, when compared to a 911 or Cayman. It is affordable as a leased vehicle (or in buy here – pay here lots) and is the top selling vehicle for Porsche.

    Plus it really is the Porsche of utility vehicles…

  • avatar
    jack4x

    For me, it’s the Land Cruiser. Probably not the “best” at any single thing besides durability/reliability, but at least competent at on road driving, off roading, luxury accommodations, comfort, towing, hauling, people space, etc. All the things I would ask of a utility vehicle. In fact, if you handed me the keys to a new LC I don’t think there’s a single SUV out there I’d trade it for straight up. That to me makes it the best.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      Agreed. Not the best at any one thing but it does combine all the utility aspects necessary into a package that can be used world wide (not just on America’s far larger road ways). The better option is if you get the Aussie version you can opt for a diesel if you want fuel economy and a basic trim level if you want to keep cost down. Those to me are the best modern examples.

    • 0 avatar

      The Land Cruiser as available in North America is absolutely NOT affordable for most people.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        You’re right, it is expensive, but that is only one of the criteria listed to consider. I still think the value for your money is excellent. The absurdly high resale alone probably makes the TCO comparable to vehicles costing far less. And while I am a long time lover of the GM full size SUVs, a $70k Suburban has a way of making an $85k Land Cruiser seem downright reasonable.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    The correct answer is Chevy Tahoe/Suburban. All other answers are bad and wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Yes Adam BC we all need to transport a baseball team and only park in the open spaces on the side of the road to catch a sunset. Plus they are fairly cheap to buy and run so I see where your coming from. I will stand by my wrong answer of Pilot.

    • 0 avatar
      Waterview

      Thanks. Love my Tahoe (had it 15 years). It’s only “fault” is that I need to pay attention to the clearance signs in parking garages in Chicago because it won’t always fit. Otherwise, just really solid.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      Pretty hard to beat Tahoe/Yukon/Suburban and really the (real full size) Blazer before. Basically 45 years now of transporting you and your stuff while being able to tow a trailer. Land Cruisers are up there too.

      The article is title best utility vehicle but the list of qualifiers are missing a few big ones for me:

      Substantive cargo area and seating AT THE SAME TIME. Because I don’t leave my kids behind every time I go to home depot.
      Reasonable tow capacity (7k).
      4wd offered.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If you like rear axle hop, terrible fuel economy, and (in the SWB’s case) unusable third rows. Your answer is wrong except for people who need to tow.

      Given your Ford predilection I’m surprised you didn’t say Expedition, which is a more defensible answer.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “If you like rear axle hop, terrible fuel economy,”

        Honestly, the Gm fullsizers have just about the most sorted rear end you can find, I’ve never felt anything like the “wiggle” I typically associate with things like the leaf sprung rear end of the Xterra or old Explorer, or the coil sprung rear end of something like a JKU.

        Fuel economy wise, my understanding is the GMs with the 5.3 have been knocking down 20mpg highway (with sane driving) for a while now. That is hardly different than what many people see with the current crossover-ized Explorer or Lambdas, or the smaller (but less aero optimized) 4Runner.

        • 0 avatar

          In fairness to the crossovers, while they’re pretty similar to the 5.3 GM options on the highway, they exceed at city MPGs. Drive my old Tahoe around in town all day, and you’re not seeing above 14.

          The weight and big engine cost lots in around town driving.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Maybe it’s the places I go and the driving I do, but for me the number that matters is city fuel economy. High highway numbers (like the 32 my LS460 will return if driven at 65 mph) are a neat parlor trick but not very real.

          No GM V8 product gets very good city fuel economy. For my old G8 GXP, it was 9-13 depending on driving style. The LS460 does much better — 16-17 — despite a similar power level and heavier weight.

          As for the axles, I’ve spent more time in the back of GM full-sizers than the front, and the back of the Fords (not to mention most big crossovers) is a much nicer place to be. The difference from the front is less noticeable.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Have to go Suburban/Yukon XL. It’s THE utility vehicle. Cargo space AND a usable third row. Towing and off-road capabilities.

            Gas mileage isn’t as bad as people think especially on the highway, considering what the vehicle can do. People that are whining about a couple of MPGs probably aren’t going to be buying one to start with.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            That’s the difference in priorities and drivign styles then I suppose. Here in the wide/flat expanses of middle American where GM BOF SUVs are king, highway/suburban driving is the order of the day, and the MPG is surprisingly palatable (or atleast comparable to heavy larger CUVs) in those circumstances.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        I was going for hyperbole.

        When someone says “Utility Vehicle” I think Suburban. You and Seth gotta call me out though. You’ll notice that I haven’t backed up my opinion with facts or figures as I usually would. I’m just full of bluster today.

        I should have said Ford Bronco to get Corey all mad about his model year rules.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Current-Gen Grand Cherokee. Available in trims from relatively basic and affordable up to luxury vehicle or near-supercar. Better off road than 99.5% of people will use. Not too big, not too small. Doesn’t look out of place anywhere, from blue-collar job site to executive parking lot to WalMart to Rodeo Drive. If they could fix the reliability issues I’d have one in a heart beat. I want one anyways, just not brave enough to roll the dice on one.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      For me, I’d actually go one up and say a Durango. While not as off road worthy, it still has low range and you gain the utility of 2 extra seats. Actually I think they still offer and express model without the third row. For me, that would be a decent choice. To bad the reliability is worse than a Grand Cherokee. That being said, if and when they offer the Grand Wagoner, I hope its sized somewhere between the durango and the Grand cherokee. That would be a really slick setup (in overland summit trim of course).

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Problem with the Durango is the image. Grand Cherokee says “American Range Rover”. Durango says “I love Dale Jr!”

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          What S2k says is accurate. The Durango has never really recovered from the audience that loved the first-gen trucks. The vehicle should have been the Grand Wagoneer from the beginning and would have sold at least twice as many copies that way.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        The low range on the Durango requires the V8, which is a good option to go for, but the 5.7L is only available on the pricey ~$45k+ stuff. And every V8 Durango has 20-inch wheels.

        A Quadra-Trac JGC Laredo E with the tow package and 17s is around $35k.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        Why would Durango reliability differ appreciably from that of Grand Cherokee?

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      “If they could fix the reliability issues I’d have one in a heart beat. I want one anyways, just not brave enough to roll the dice on one.”

      I’m so with you on this one.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      What are all these reliability issues? I have two close family members that have both had Grand Cherokees for the last 10+ years. Only one major issue was the early Pentastar engine. (Never failed, it just displayed a check engine light. Chrysler bought that Jeep Back.)

      The Drivetrain in these vehicles is the best on the road today. No turbocharging, no direct injection. Excellent ZF 8 speed.

      Maybe there are issues with the electronics on the higher trim models? I wouldn’t know. The lower spec Grand Cherokee has everything you need.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      I rolled the dice twice, once in 2015 and once again in 2017. I lost both times. The ZF 8-speed is crap in these Jeeps.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I can’t call something the “best” utility if it doesn’t have some degree of off-road capability and isn’t rated to tow at least 5000lbs.

    So I guess I go with the Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Highlander

    Substantive cargo area – V
    Reliability – V
    Affordability to many – V
    Fuel economy – V
    Flexible seating – V
    All-wheel drive – V
    Practical size – V

  • avatar
    BigKoppa

    Explorer? We bought a year-old 2013 and now have 110,xxx+ miles on it. Only non-maintenance repair was a bad purge valve that I fixed for ~$15.

    Combined MPG is right at 21 (could be better, not terrible).
    Three rows.
    MAY be a little too big, but pretty much ticks all the other boxes.

  • avatar
    MUSASHI66

    Very solid “no way” to the CR-V. My wife had an older CR-V and when it came time for a new car, we looked into the CR-V, and CVT just sucked any resemblance of fun out of it. Anything on the best list must have some fun in it. She got a 2013 RAV4, just because it had a normal automatic, but after few years of having it, she realized that was not enough either (while driving in Colorado, over a mountain pass, stuck behind a slow car, without enough oomph to actually pass it). I was actually looking for a car to handle the dogs, and I got a Forester XT, and she gon one as well.

    So, my answer is Subaru Forester XT.

    -Substantive cargo area – we had as many as three dogs (90lbs German Shepherd, 90+ lb mutt and a 50lbs German shepherd) in it – behind the back seats. More than large enough for any family up to two kids (anyone with two kids saying they need more room is just spoiled for room, most of the world has two or more kids with substantially smaller vehicles)
    -Reliability – No issues which I am aware of on newer models, 2014+ series with the FA20F engine has been good, even the CVT is not nearly as bad or noticeable as it is in underpowered CR-V
    -Affordability to many – we got ours for $27K or so, few grand under MSRP, which is the “street price”. That is $5-7k under average vehicle transaction these days
    -Fuel economy – depending on your driving style, you might dip into high 19’s in the city, but 21city-27hwy is more than attainable
    -Flexible seating – er, it seats 4-5 and it has folding seats. Is that flexible? I’d say it’s normal
    -All-wheel drive – best in the business
    -Practical size – fits in any garage, not too long as the Outback, not too short or small to suffer from “small car, it will crumble in a crash” syndrome

    + GRound clearance is better that most CUVs in the class
    ++ AWD system is way better than any other FWD with AWD on demand CUV in the class
    +++ handling is great for a slightly lifted car – it is really just a hatchback with 8.5″ of ground clearance

    Best of all, it can be a blast. Chug along in ‘I” mode, and it is a car for my mom (no really, she does drive an XT). Hit “S” and shifts are crisp, it is quick, and if you want some (more) noise, you are $350 muffler delete away from some popping and crackling. Hit “S#” and car is downright violent with shifts and it holds gears up to the redline. It’ll pass any car holding up traffic on a 10000ft Colorado pass, and when time comes to sell, they hold their value as good as a 4Runner or a Wrangler.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    4Runner would probably be my choice although they are over priced. But you get a lot of it back in resale. Interior really needs updating.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “although they are over priced.”

      Honestly, relative to the rest of the automotive marketplace right now, I think the price of a SR5 is not unreasonable for what you’re getting (you alluded to this with resale). Compared to a lot of new “throwaway” crossover type SUVs, the 4Runner is a simple and crude but stupendously trouble-free and long lived beast. For reference, my ’96 4Runner Limited would have retailed for about $55k in 2017 dollars. So a $35k 2017 4Runner SR5 does not seem so crazy all of a sudden. Of course I too wish they were cheaper.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t particularly like Chrysler, but I’m going to go with the Grand Cherokee. It’s become substantially nicer, fits just about everyone’s needs, and continues to transcend class barriers…both the cash-strapped and the cash-laden buy it.

  • avatar
    whynot

    Obvious answer is obvious:
    Ford Flex.

    Try and think of a reason why it is not the best. I’ll wait.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      I don’t know the specs of the Flex but every time I see one all I can think of is the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. The Truckster was designed by George Barris and based on the 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Hey they question was best utility vehicle not best looking utility vehicle (although I personally think the Flex looks great).

        • 0 avatar
          volvo

          OK I looked at the specs and except for fuel economy I feel you are correct. The AWD SEL comes in with MSRP about $34K which is not unreasonable. 16/22 mpg is the only criterion it doesn’t seem to meet.

          I cannot get past the looks. I usually am a spec guy when looking at cars but I realized if there was a vehicle with all the specs of a Cayenne S priced at $40K but looked like the Pontiac Aztec I couldn’t be seen in it.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      LOL. You serious? The list is a mile long

  • avatar
    Tstag

    The Discovery Sport, its practical, well appointed, has 7 seats, is fuel efficient and has proper go anywhere capability. It’s also fab on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I really want to like these. I hope in a couple years to hear they’ve been holding up well under their Indian overlords (sort of delicious irony really). Everything I’ve seen so far is that the best thing that’s happened to Jaguar in 40 years was being sold to Tata so I’m hopeful the new Disco is a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      random1

      But by that token, the last LR4 had a ~50k base price, available with 3rd row as a standalone option. Not bad for what it is.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    http://www.motortrend.com/news/hear-ford-flex-discontinued-2020/
    well there’s this

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    By far, the answer is the Jeep grand Cherokee. Specifically the 2011+ model.

    When factoring in price, what you get for the price, capability, reliability, styling it’s just the clear choice. The Durango comes close but takes a hit in the styling department as it’s doesn’t look as polished as the Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      So, are we to read into this that Sergio is a more tender lover than Big Al?

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Huh?

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          You’re fond of saying that FCA is honey and roses, while Ford builds nothing but garbage. “Emasculated” garbage at that, which adds an interesting subtext.

          Taken at face value, since that’s not, as you would say, “the truth,” I have to assume that it means Mr. Marchionne is currently doing for you what ol’ Alan Mullaly, the object of your indefatigable obsession (even though he’s now two CEO’s removed from his former position) never could.

          You fight this fight with a passion I’ve only ever seen from a lover scorned, so you can’t fault me for taking that to its logical end.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Sorry…I don’t follow how fair analysis of vehicles translates to a lovers quarrel between the CEOs.

            But hey, you do you buddy.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Did I lose you? Let’s back up.

            Few others, online or off, hate an automotive manufacturer as much as you have hated Ford since when, 2009-2010 or so? Particularly people who ostensibly have no stake in the game.

            They make some stinkers, for sure. But to say, for example, that between a Flex and a Durango there exists a vast gulf of basic reliability and build quality, that’s not a “fair analysis of vehicles.”

            So, given the intense, irrational, negative frisson, I just figured it had to be a sexual thing. But, if you swear you guys never did it, I’ll just go back to assuming you were fired. Which is unfortunate if true, but if screeching about their products online, where it could be construed as consumer advice is the result, I’m going to take my karmic lumps on this one.

          • 0 avatar
            Loser

            brenschluss, this guy was trolling TTAC back in 2005 when I first started coming here. His user name has changed many times but his act is still the same. He used to be a “GM can do no wrong” guy but switched to Mopar.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            ” that’s not a “fair analysis of vehicles.”

            Oh it absolutely is. The Durango is a far better vehicle than the Flex ever was. It’s more capable, has far better engine choices, far better transmission, reasonable capability, much better styling, infotainment systems that work, etc. And a price that is reasonable.

            But keep living in the clouds, it’s telling that the Flex has never gotten anything other than a mild refresh since 2009. Even Ford knows it’s a lame duck.

            Furthermore, I’ve never said I hated Ford. So please continue to misrepresent critical analysis to fulfill some sort of weird fantasy.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Having had experience with a Ford Escape Hybrid; and knowing how utterly satisfying it is to have a vehicle that versatile, civilized and efficient; my choice would be the Rav4 Hybrid. Just because of better reliability of the non-hybrid systems.

  • avatar
    Upthewazzu

    ’10-’12 Hyundai Santa Fe

    Seriously. I have a ’10 SE w/AWD and a V6. It goes like heck, gets 26+ mpg on the highway, and is amazing in the snow (with or without my Blizzaks). Oh, and it’s a shade bigger than the Murano/Escape/CRV/Rav4 that it competes with. I’ve shoved a full sized refrigerator in the back. I’m not kidding, I even got the rear hatch to close!

    It rides a bit rougher than it should, and the reliability has been suspect (about 15 parts covered by warranty to date), but it does everything the other SUV/CUV’s do, but better.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “Seriously”

      No. If for no other reason, because
      “It rides a bit rougher than it should, and the reliability has been suspect”

      Also, we can’t trust you when you say
      “it does everything the other SUV/CUV’s do, but better.”
      If anyone said that about ANY vehicle, they’re wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I always thought of these and the original Santa Fes as somewhat overlooked options in the US marketplace. Elsewhere in the world, they are fairly highly regarded. From my reading, one common complaint that came up is that like the Rav4 of that same era, the front seats are way-undersized in terms of seat cushion length for taller drivers.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Acura MDX (AWD only). Good interior space to outside size ratio, AWD system that won’t roll over and die when it encounters actual bad traction, some amount of actual handling capability, and good reliability. The only Achilles’ heel is the price (used or new).

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    2010-2012 Escape Hybrid. I own a 2008 and nothing is particularly wrong with it, but having owned a 2010 Fusion Hybrid that updated power-train and HVAC system would make it just about perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I have a 2009. There are a few low mileage base ’09 awd’s for sale around Vancouver right now. Probably ex-utility or municipal. And this ’12 with 38k km’s.
      https://vancouver.craigslist.ca/van/ctd/d/2012-escape-hybrid-awd-onlykm/6322274097.html

      Despite the older hybrid system they still get mileage very close to the Rav4 hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Also improvements for the ’09 Escape
      Hybrid probably cured the things you don’t like about the earlier years. More power, better mileage, smooth brake transition. And stability control.

      The ’10 did away with the rear hvac system, changed the a/c compressor to electric, and what I like best, does not run the engine on startup unless it’s needed.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Given the objective criteria of the story, I have to hang my head and say Honda CR-V or the late 2000s Toyota Highlander hybrid.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Subaru.
    How about the Forester? Affordable, practical, reliable, capable, good all weather ability, plenty of cargo space…
    Yeah it’s not the prettiest, but it seems to check all the requirements.

  • avatar
    phreshone

    F L E X

  • avatar
    suspekt

    This is very easy.

    CHEVROLET TAHOE 4WD

    If you really think about, it’s the obvious answer. I also happen to own one.

    Why?
    – Very reliable with an LS based 5.3 V8
    – 200,000+ miles are common on used cars
    – GM transmissions in full size vehicles are well engineered
    – Seating for 8 or 9 (3rd row is totally fine)
    – Durable
    – Great styling inside and out
    – High Towing capacity for an SUV
    – Fun to modify (lift kits, big tires, exhaust)
    – Strong resale value
    – Commonly used in Commercial duty (cost-per-mile operating cost good and duty cycle can be handled)

    The GM full size SUV’s are the best SUV period.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      The fuel economy is also reasonable.

      V6 Pilot or Highlander commonly run 13-15 litres per 100km in city and my Tahoe delivers 16. That’s a worthwhile increase for the increased capability.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “3rd row is totally fine”

      In a Tahoe?!

      Unless you’re an amputee, no, no it isn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s better than something like a Highlander, but still not great.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Man I dunno, I haven’t been in a current Highlander and it’s been years since I was in the back of a gen 1, but I have been in a brand new Yukon third row, and it was terrible. I think my newly acquired 1G Pilot edges out the non-LWB GM’s third rows, but without having both side by side, I will just say neither are good for adults.

          Surprisingly decent third row: 1G Sequoia! Try it out sometime. They also have a really big trunk left over with the third row in place (and positively huge with it removed). They really nailed the packaging on those IMO, I really don’t care for the bloated 2G Sequoia.

    • 0 avatar
      DiveJumpShootUSMC

      plastic garbage interiors, to big for any area except a farm or ranch, and union made which is a big no go. The idea that the union gives almost all of their money to anti US industry socialist politicians then whines when they ship jobs overseas make GM products un-buyable in many people’s opinion.

      I could never buy a car or truck that union made when they are the power behind Pelosi, Schumer and other rich liberals that are driving work overseas with regulatory and tax. Why anyone would buy a vehicle that has a significant percentage of the price going to support union is beyond me- I’d rather have a nice interior then paying for socialist.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I’m not sure what you people mean by affordable, but if we take the CR-V as a guideline then many of the vehicles being proposed here simply don’t qualify. To take the closest example in the posts, up here in Canada a CR-V starts at $27,000 while a Tahoe starts at $54,600. If the CR-V is supposed to be an example of something affordable then something like the Tahoe (and any other comparably priced vehicle) is not.

    I think it would be a toss up between the CR-V, the Forester, or the CX5 (which I’m surprised no one has mentioned), depending on which characteristics you prioritize.

    I personally would choose the Outback but since it’s more of a wagon then it may not satisfy all the criteria as well as the CR-V, Forester or CX5

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    Porsche Macan. Who says a utility vehicle has to be boring? Is there anything more boring than a CR-V? There’s something to be said for aesthetics, fun factor, and handling, all of which the Macan excels at.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’d go with the current Jeep Grand Cherokee. A friend recently bought a pre-owned Larado with the Pentastar and it fills the bill. Good all weather handling. Livable fuel economy. Plus its not the size of a Canyonero which is just right for most needs.

  • avatar
    Prado

    4th gen 4Runner. 2003-2009. If I could buy a new one today, I would, to replace my 2003… except I would get it completely loaded. Silky smooth V8, AWD/4WD. Just swap in an Android Audio/Apple Carplay deck and I would be good to go for another 15 years of trouble free motoring.

  • avatar
    Roadranger

    2014 FPV Pursuit Ute with the blown 5 litre and 6 speed manual.

  • avatar
    ganong

    I may be the only one to suggest this but Lexus GX-
    Not as expensive as the LC.
    Deadly realiable.
    Extremely capable in snow and offroad.
    Looks ugly but like old money.
    Amazing resale.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The GX is definitely a great truck if you can live with the so-so MPG. The most amazing thing to me is how they actually seem to basically reach price parity with the platform-sharing 4Runner on the used market after some time (7ish years old). The GX definitely has some meaningful upgrades in ride smoothness and NVH isolation (not to mention chair seating position if comparing 4th gen 4Runner to GX470). You do unfortunately lose the roll down rear window.

  • avatar
    Marko

    I’d have to agree with the Grand Cherokee, despite FCA reliability concerns.

  • avatar
    DiveJumpShootUSMC

    Can’t buy Union made cars, the Honda is a soulless grocery getter. If you want something with room and comfort get a E63 estate. Amazingly fast, handles well enough horsepower/tq to pull start a planet and a great interior that makes driving a joy.

    Range Rover have problems but mostly when people who can’t afford them or are who too busy neglect the maintenance. I had a 2004 Land Rover discovery that I whipped all the time but took care of the maintenance. It was still very nice when I sold it at 175K miles.

    If you put that next to all but the very pampered US made SUVs you’d see the difference between a vehicle that makes it to 175K miles still going strong and looking good and a worn wagon.

    I hate the idea that US cars have to cut costs to afford a union shop and we end up getting the guilt trip with by made in the US is ugly. Too many good people wanting to do the right thing aren’t getting that buying union made is contradictory- go look at who UAW gives their donations to socialist minded Dems who are at the very same time working to increase corporate taxes, stomp on industry with useless regulatory fees and fines.

    Unfortunately, UAW has politicized car buying by having lopsided donations and providing manpower for socialist candidates. anti American values isn’t even the beginning. And unfortunately the average worker is caught in the middle.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Ignorant people who don’t understand that there are other auto manufacturing unions in other countries make car buying a political “issue” in their narrow little minds. The union guys/gals who built your beloved E63/Disco are real socialists. They’re not “The Socialists” Fox New/Breitbart et al told you be afraid of; but if you listen tomorrow Fox New/Breitbart et al will tell you some talking points and who you should really, really be afraid of. The European unions make the UAW/CAW (UNIFOR?Arby’s, whatever the CAW is called nowdays) look like pussies. While we’re at it, lets throw in some subtle racism; my vehicle was built by EUROPEANS!!! and not some disagreeable UAW scum; or gasp! BROWN PEOPLE. Do you even understand what the labor costs involved in building a vehicle? UAW members enjoy crazy “socialist” and “anti-American” things like a middle class wage, decent healthcare (the union runs it), and the ability to send their kids to college.

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