By on April 8, 2020

2017 Honda HR-VWe return to the 2010s today to conduct more design evaluations. Previously in this series we covered the best and worst standard car designs, then did the same for upscale cars. Today we consider the 10-year span when the SUV and other SUV-like things strengthened their grasp on consumer sales, then choked out nearly everything that wasn’t a pickup truck.

Our rules are similar to prior entries in this series. We’re considering only production cars which people actually bought, not design exercises and one-offs. To keep things in the attainable “standard purchase” space, the entry-level ask must have been under $48,000. While that may seem a bit low, it’s 15 grand more than the average car transaction price in 2015.

Anything that’s an SUV or CUV qualifies today, so we can avoid body-on-frame discussions like in some sad Jeep forum. And of course, your selection had to have been offered between model year 2010 and 2019. On to my selection:

A full decade after its introduction into North America, and the Land Rover LR4 still looks great. It asked a hair under $47,000 in 2010, its debut year. In Discovery tradition, the 4 was a modification of the 3 that went on sale in 2004. Though the 4 bears a strong resemblance to the 3, it manages to look much more upscale; it’s aged better over the years. Something about the LR3 was a bit too plain to my eyes, like the details weren’t fully finished before production. Unlike the Discovery II, the LR3 wore its limited detailing in an unnatural way.

With the new generation came Range Rover Sport-adjacent styling, LED lighting, “better reliability,” better suspension, a nicer interior, and generally more modern technology. Standard for North America was the 5.0-liter Jaguar AJV8 with new-fangled direct injection and variable intake timing. The LR4 lasted through 2016, at which point it was replaced by a new SUV simply called Discovery. The handsome British filing cabinet looks went away, replaced with a design matching the Discovery Sport CUV.

The current model looks awkward and pinched, and though wider than LR4, is over three inches shorter. And there’s no more V8. Indeed, the Discovery’s been ruined. But at least we’ll always have LR4.

What are your picks for best SUV/CUV styling in the 2010s?

[Images: Honda, Land Rover]

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36 Comments on “QOTD: Best Standard SUV Design of the 2010s?...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    2 door Jeep Wrangler. The classic is still the best. Not the pulled like taffy extended wheelbase one (that looks just a little dis-proportioned) and the borders on sacrilege 4 door model – give me the basic 2 door softtop and a day or a weekend on a trail.

    Some designs just nail it from the beginning. This is one of them.

    And I second your Land Rover and raise you a Range Rover. Another design that they don’t have to change much to keep it looking good.
    (Edit…the price limit…d’oh! Make it a used Range Rover!)

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      That was my first thought too.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @flyersfan: While I agree with you on appearance, the four-door Wrangler is just as capable as the two door version; you can’t say that about all the pretend SUVs like the Honda in the photo above. Even the Rovers are closer to being true SUVs than most of the other CUVs that claim that status.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Land Rover Range Rover is still my all time favorite when it comes to design, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee is still my favorite SUV for functionality, durability and design in one package with 4-Runners and Land Cruisers being the best SUVs for dependable longevity

    Jeep Wranglers are the coolest SUVs, but real ball-busters as dailies

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I really like the Range Rover “Classic”.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Lie2me: When is the last time you drove a Wrangler… a new one? I purchased mine in late ’07 and it rode better than I expected…better even than an older F-150 I had about the same time (and soon sold.) When the ’18 Wrangler came out, I test drove one and it was impressively smooth. As dailies they are surprisingly comfortable and can handle almost any kind of road conditions you want to throw at them–even (or especially) when factory stock.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I have to agree with Vulpine, I had always heard horror stories on wrangler ride quality, that I’m sure are related to old leaf spring short wheelbase Jeeps of the 80s and back.

        The ride quality issue is long gone in my opinion after several rides in a JKU, they ride quite well on all terrains and I’m sure a set of Michelin’s would make just about anyone forget that it wasn’t a typical SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Try out a new Wrangler, Lie2me…you might be pleasantly surprised how civilized it is. I certainly was. Aside from steering that doesn’t self-center much and being a bit of a wanderer on the highway, I think I could live with it pretty easily.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        It’s been awhile, maybe I need to take another look

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I’ve driven several Wranglers over the last 25 years or so, and none of them approached the “never goes straight” level of my friend’s ’78 Bronco with the awful twin I beam suspension. It had to be steered constantly, kind of like an old movie where people are supposed to be driving and sit there moving the wheel back and forth. He spent a ton of cash making it go straight, which involved a bunch of labor to tweak the front end of it.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I don’t really understand how this works, 30-40 years ago I don’t recall seeing any comparisons between a Ford Bronco and VW rabbit. Likewise comparing CUVs and SUVs indiscriminately, despite the fact they are worlds apart, seems like a senseless comparison. It’s like comparing an actual forklift to just having forks on the front loader of a typical tractor.

    I realize this is design-wise QOTD not functionality wise, therefore I will have to go with the classic Suburban. The last decade where the suburban actually held capability before being turned into a IRS mommy mobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I agree, Corey should have kept CUVs out of the mix, but the title is clear and you made a good choice

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      I agree with the choice of GM full sized SUVs except the gaudy Escalade. These vehicles accept that they are functional boxes. I’ll take mine in black, steel wheels and factory tinted windows unless government agencies have bought them all up.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    If strictly from an aesthetic standpoint its got to be the Volvo XC90 in its current iteration introduced at the tail end of your time frame.

    The LR4 is “rugged” good looks I agree, with its boxy go anywhere shape. But the XC90 is beautiful to behold.

    If the “design” means a total package of capability, looks, cost, etc, then I would have to throw in the GM Lambdas, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV.

    The Enclave for instance sold for nearly a decade, its platform was branded under several different marks, it hit the sweet spot for many consumers, particularly families. The RAV4 and CRV are simply a perfect consumer driven exercise of utility and affordability leading to huge sales. So, in that respect, I would say one of the more consumer driven/mass market models is more appropriate winner for design of the decade. The Buick Enclave was stunning when it was first released, still looks good I think. Classic lines easy on the eyes. The CRV and RAV4, well, they work great and fulfill their duty.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Nissan Xterra, hands down in my opinion.
    https://tinyurl.com/uspb8db

  • avatar
    NoID

    Hard to beat that Land Rover, it’s always been a favorite of mine.

    If I had to choose, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Buick Enclave, all three iterations of which (1st gen, 1st gen facelift, and 2nd gen) would qualify for this exercise.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Sorry. I cant get too sentimental over the LR4. I had a new one. First 2 years of ownership it was in the shop 3 times.
    1- Wipers INOP.
    2- Factory set front toe in too much- wore out tires in 18,000 miles. I think they were $250 each.
    3- Check Engine light thingy.

    I wouldnt touch any European car with somebody’s else – ten foot pole.

    Japan name brands only need apply. Period

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    For me, it’d be a tie between the Audi Q8 and the Cadillac Escalade.

    I’m also a fan of the Fiat 500X, and it’s a crying shame that FCA didn’t do an Abarth version.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I am so biased here. Take all those oversized boxes on wheels and crush them all. CUV’s are rancid. SUV’s were made to give women power to make up for their inability to actually have any.

    I’d rather have a station wagon. The Ford Mondeo one is stunning.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Did you ever see that movie, “Grumpy Old Men”?

      I don’t know why I suddenly thought of that

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        This particular version of ‘generic internet troll’ also claims to have bought a used Elantra on payments— and he couldn’t afford to put Michelins on it.

        An Elantra is a fine car for people that don’t know any better.

        I, personally, prefer trims that aren’t thin and flat, but simultaneously hyper-glossy hard plastic— I need a steering system that gives actual feedback and a competent rear axle that follows it’s lead. I need a radio that doesn’t sound like a base Hyundai’s.

        Styling is subjective, but HyunKia even get their fonts wrong. I wouldn’t buy an Elantra just for the ‘auto down’ script on its cheap door switch. That the things wander all over the road, skitter their back-ends around a turn on broken pavemen— and have an interior wholly-made of recycled 1987 Excel bumpers(the interiors of these things are made of basic black bumper plastic) Is immaterial. That window switch is disgusting.

        My Compass is a luxury car compared to the Elantra rental I’m in while its getting body work done. 4×4 stickshift CUVs with Italian style and suspension run circles around Hyundai rentals. The trims I’ve never touched are of higher quality than the major touchpoints of the Hyundai.

        For Corey, and this exercise— I’m throwing in the Jeep Liberty, either one. Rear drive, manuals and V6 available, 4×4 or rear drive— earlier bubble models run forever, later models are better looking and have modern conveniences apart from CarPlay and self-driving.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    2014 and up WK2 Grand Cherokee (when they dumped the monostable shifter of course).

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’d go with the last gen XC90, the RAV4 (last gen with tire on back), Ford Flex, last gen Toyota Landcruiser, and current Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    BobNelson

    Buick Encore

    The Encore’s unexpected success launched the mini-ute segment, despite massive mockery from “knowledgeable” sites like TTAC, and incomprehension from the manufacturer. That success isn’t really hard to understand. The product is a near-perfect fit with the expectations of most people.
    Most people want a car that is easy to live with, and that does what is required without fuss.
    Most people want quiet comfort, easy cruising at Interstate speeds, enough room for the small number of passengers that “occupy” it 99% of the time. Most people want a car that merges decently, and don’t care at all about more power than that.
    The Encore has the easiest ingress/egress in the segment. Seventy-year-old spinal columns find that very important.
    The Encore can carry two, with lots of baggage, in quiet comfort… or four with a top-box…
    https://www.automobilemag.com/uploads/sites/11/2012/12/2013-Buick-Encore-front-three-quarters2.jpg?fit=around%7C875:492

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      That’s pretty, but I would say even more so about the Enclave. We were looking for a used Enclave. They were double the price of all the others in the same class. I asked the sales guy why they asked so much, he just said people love them and they fly off the lot. We ended up with an Sorento, same year, 3-row leather, glass roof, SX AWD for half the price. It’s not as beautiful as the Enclave, but it is bone reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        BobNelson

        I don’t think the Encore is good looking. It’s too stubby. After all, it must fit a high roof line with a short wheelbase. The result is, basically, a lump. The designers did a pretty good job making it acceptable to the eye, but…
        It’s much easier to get good styling on a larger car, and I agree that the Enclave is nice. Not just good looking, but all-around good value. If I were looking for a BIG car, the Enclave would be high among the possibilities.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Range Rover for consistent evolution over time of a classic design. The Volvo XC90 is a close second but not iconic.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Tahoe/Yukon short wheelbase versions. simple, good looking SUVs. I rented one a couple years ago and found I really like the weird mix of old-school and new.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The Range Rover has nothing on the Defender (but the new one is disappointing).

    The new G-Wagon isn’t as classic looking as its predecessor either.

    I’d go w/ the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.

    For something “softer” (crossover), it’s probably the Kia Telluride.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Land Rover is an interesting company to look at for styling, let’s start with the really ugly:

    Don’t think I can put any of their models in this category, almost every car maker I can think of has a really horrid car in their history, like Porsche I’d say they don’t. Jeep by contrast have the Compass.

    Now the not pretty, maybe a bit generic, or missed the spot

    Current Disco, Disco Sport, all Freelanders

    Now the really good looking:

    All previous Discoveries
    All Defenders new and old
    Range Rover Evoque
    Range Rover Velar
    Range Rover Sport
    Range Rover

    You’ve got to give them some credit all things considered

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