When it first entered our common lexicon, the “Sport Utility Vehicle” moniker was reserved for wagon-style vehicles riding on traditional truck platforms.
Those truck underpinnings tended to produce durable, robust vehicles, often with some off-road acumen, but they also frequently resulted in an unsavory ride.
Today, the SUV label is often expanded to encompass their car-based Crossover Utility Vehicle cousins. Those vehicles tend to be smoother and more livable than the truck-based SUVs of the past, leading to high consumer expectations when it comes to comfort. As a result, the new-vehicle market is positively lousy with plush, cozy utility vehicles, capable of carrying you and yours to whatever destination in luxury.
Below, we’ve picked out the ten most comfortable SUVs on the market in 2019, listed in no particular order:
Based on the same mechanicals as the GMC Acadia and the more downmarket Chevrolet Traverse, the Buick Enclave elevates these underpinnings into the realm of the premium. Its suspension is soft and supple, insulating occupants well from even the most uncouth of roads, and even the base Preferred trim comes with Active Noise Cancellation and other effective sound-deadening measures.
What’s more, the Enclave delivers best-in-class cargo space without sacrificing its impressive sense of roominess, and leather upholstery is standard on all but the base trim level. The standard 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat is easy to adjust just how you want it, and standard adjustable lumbar support on both front seats is a standout feature on such a reasonably priced vehicle.
Land Rover Range Rover
The most expensive SUV on our list (we had to draw the line somewhere), the Land Rover Range Rover is a bona fide luxury icon with the ride and comfort to match.
With a price tag well over the U.S. median household income, it had better be.
A gargantuan panoramic moonroof and leather-appointed 16-way-adjustable heated front seats are standard – yes, standard – and a beautiful Walnut veneer is worn across much of the dash. But what we love most about the Land Rover Range Rover is, of course, how it glides over the road – an attribute possessed largely thanks to its air suspension.
Unlike most of the other vehicles on this list, the Range Rover was developed to be a true, capable off-roader, and if its suspension can dampen against rocks and ruts, the occasional pothole ain’t nothing.
One of two truck-based SUVs on this list, the Chevrolet Suburban is a gargantuan bit of mass-market utility vehicle.
Fun fact: “Suburban” is also considered the longest-running continuous-use nameplate in automotive history, having first adorned a Chevrolet station wagon all the way back in 1935.
But forget about its depression-era origins; today’s Suburban is anything but austere. Even at the base trim level you get a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power adjustable front seats, and the interior is well laid-out and uncluttered. In true GM fashion, the materials and switch gear could stand to look and feel a bit nicer, but the ergonomics are all well-sorted, and having such a large footprint, there is plenty of room to spread out.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
If there were an award for comfort-per-dollar, the Jeep Grand Cherokee might well be in the running.
Roomy and nicely styled on the inside, the Grand Cherokee’s standout virtues are a cushy, quiet ride and a cabin devoid of any obvious, glaring signs of chintziness.
It’s quite long-in-the-tooth by now, having last been redesigned for the 2011 model year, but it continues to exemplify comfort in the mid-size SUV category.
That 2011 redesign saw the Grand Cherokee adopt a four-wheel independent suspension for the first time, which contributes to its gentle on-road manners. Other automakers could learn a thing or two from the Jeep about how to make a driver’s seat; the base Laredo trim gets a 12-way adjustable seat that includes 4-way adjustability for the lumbar support. In addition, standard acoustic glass for the windshield and front doors help keep the noise of the outside world where it belongs.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai has come a long way in the U.S. over the past two decades, and for proof, look no further than the Santa Fe.
All-new for 2019, the Santa Fe is billed as the “family-first SUV,” and that boast is well earned; it’s an astonishingly well-appointed vehicle, especially at its price point, with good ergonomics and impressive fit and finish.
The sound deadening has been improved over the discontinued third-generation model, rendering the cabin more serene and peaceful than any sub-$30,000 SUV has any right to have. It speaks to Hyundai’s evolution as an automaker that such an inexpensive vehicle should feel so quiet, well-mannered, and cozy.
And while it’s not as large as many of the other vehicles on this list, the five-seat Hyundai Santa Fe never gets to feeling cramped or claustrophobic. Bravo.
It should come as no surprise that Toyota’s dedicated luxury brand offers one of the more luxurious crossovers on the market today: the Lexus RX.
Its current fifth-generation design dropped for the 2015 model year, boasting a 2-inch increase in wheelbase and all the extra cabin space that implies. The interior is, unsurprisingly, well-crafted and upscale, with standard supple NuLuxe faux-leather upholstery, or the option of even-more-supple semi-aniline perforated leather.
Most impressively, even the performance-oriented F Sport models can deliver a smooth, inoffensive ride on the road that belies their competent handling. This is thanks to an Adaptive Variable Suspension with 650 levels of damping stiffness, part of an available Performance Package.
Unlike many of the SUVs on this list, the Volkswagen Atlas – VW’s two-year-old mid-size crossover – won’t blow you away with its abundance of rich standard comfort and convenience features. The base driver’s seat is a run-of-the-mill 6-way manual adjustable unit, and real leather upholstery doesn’t come into play until the top SEL Premium trim level.
What it offers instead is a thoughtful, handsome interior design with superior ergonomics, and the sort of supreme fit and finish that we’ve come to expect from Germany’s people’s car company. Dual-zone climate control comes standard, and there are vents for second- and third-row passengers from the base trim level up.
The ride can get a bit choppy over rough pavement, but in most any other circumstances, it’s the cozy, comfy, well-put-together family hauler you would expect.
The second of the two proper truck-based SUVs on this list, the Ford Expedition was a home run for the Blue Oval, arriving for the 2018 model year more well-styled, capable, and competitive than ever. Sure, you could spring for the more expensive Lincoln Navigator, which is essentially a gussied-up version of the very same vehicle, but the Expedition offers somewhere around 90 to 95 percent of the premium look and feel without the upcharge.
Both are based on the popular Ford F-150’s underpinnings, lending them a well-mannered ride, thoughtful design, and very manageable handling. An 8-way adjustable power driver’s seat with lumbar support comes standard, and Ford’s acoustic engineers have managed to keep unwanted noise at bay within the cabin.
One doesn’t need to spend an arm and a leg for comfort, and as affordable compact SUVs go, the Subaru Forester delivers.
The Forester was completely redesigned for 2018, and nice, soft-touch materials adorn all the usual touch points. The seats are comfortable, despite limited adjustability on the base model, and the dash is well laid-out and pleasant to the eye. Most importantly, the re-engineered chassis manages to be rigid without rattling anyone’s teeth out; Subaru’s engineers set out with the aim of making the suspension, not the body, do the hard work of absorbing bumps in the road – and off-road, for that matter. In that, they were successful, giving the Forester a pleasant, cushy ride fitting of a much more expensive SUV.
Brand new for 2020, the Lincoln Aviator is Ford’s luxurious, premium take on its own all-new Explorer SUV, and it’s a beautifully executed paradigm of American luxury.
The base model features cozy, heated 10-way adjustable power front seats with driver’s seat memory, upholstered in a soft faux leather, while Lincoln’s ludicrously adjustable 30-way seats are available on higher trims. The rest of the materials, from the basic Standard trim up to the top-of-the-line Black Label and Black Label Grand Touring, are pleasant to see and to touch, with effective use of veneers across the dash and nice, soft-touch materials in key places.
Looking at the cabin side-by-side with that of the new Ford Explorer, it’s apparent straight away that the differences are more than superficial; serious effort has been poured into making the Aviator a uniquely posh vehicle next to its less luxurious stablemate. The result is a truly premium-feeling SUV with oodles of comfort and class.