Luxury SUVs are some of the hottest commodities on the automotive landscape, thanks to their blend of a sporty utility's interior space and rugged capabilities with the premium technology and comfort features of a luxury sedan.
Many things differentiate these crown jewels from the typical family SUV. They tend to come with fancier seat upholstery, advanced safety equipment, larger infotainment screens, and premium audio systems. Luxury manufacturers also tend to devote more attention to the cabin's overall refinement and design, giving their vehicles a more polished feel. Many luxury SUVs also come with sound-deadening materials and air suspensions to provide passengers with a plush ride.
Many automakers have recently started making smaller luxury crossovers with car-like handling and sportier driving dynamics, further blurring the lines between SUV and car. Meanwhile, many large, three-row choices are still being produced, with powerful V8 engines, large towing capacities, and vast interior space. It mainly comes down to what each buyer wants.
Regardless of which kind you select, premium SUVs tend to offer more space for passengers and cargo than sedans. Yet, like other high-end cars, luxury SUVs are highly configurable, with many cabin materials, colors, and features available for owners to outfit their vehicle.
This list seeks to provide readers with a summary of some of the best luxury SUVs on the 2021 model year market. Each offers a unique blend of luxury, sportiness, and style. All hail from renowned luxury brands. Here is Autolist's selection of 14 top-ranking luxury SUVs.
The Audi Q7 is one of the most well-rounded luxury SUVs on the market. The German luxury brand's largest SUV comes standard with all-wheel-drive and turbocharged power for athletic road manners. Inside and out, the Q7 exhibits Audi's trademark design touches that have made the brand such a popular choice among luxury shoppers. The sleek sheet metal is elegant yet understated, not drawing attention to itself like some competitors.
Audi offers a standard 248-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an optional 335-hp 3.0-liter turbo V6 with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology. The Q7's powertrain is smooth and powerful, with a sportier feel than many of its non-luxury counterparts.
Interior quality is one area where Audi shines. The Q7's cabin has the German automaker's meticulous attention to detail and tech-focused style. There is leather seating for seven passengers, with power-adjustable and heated front seats. Upper trims have amenities like heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, making the midsize Audi crossover a great all-weather driver. Starting from around $55,000, the Audi Q7 is an excellent mix of comfort and everyday practicality.
BMW is perhaps best known for producing fast yet luxurious sports sedans. The midsize BMW X5 crossover imbues this same driver-oriented spirit in a large, plush SUV. Rear-wheel-drive comes standard, with amongst the best handling agility of any vehicle in its class. BMW provides customers with three engine choices, all of which are turbocharged. The top-of-the-line X5 M50i has a V8 engine producing 523 hp, giving it rapid acceleration.
Pricing for the X5 starts around $60,000, including automatic LED headlamps, power-folding mirrors, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen. A wireless internet hotspot, a Harman Kardon audio system, and a remote engine starter are available.
The X5 faces stiff competition from the Porsche Cayenne for the mantle of the sportiest midsize SUV. The Porsche has slightly more impressive track dynamics, but it's pricier than the X5. Nonetheless, the X5 has some of the best cornering abilities in its segment. Shoppers can equip an adaptive suspension and limited-slip differential for extra steering precision. The cabin styling is sedate for a luxury SUV, with few distractions from the driving experience.
Few SUVs have the panache and exclusivity of the Range Rover. The full-size British luxury SUV has been a well-established figure in the automotive world for decades, with a reputation for peerless off-road strength and sumptuous cabin comfort. For 2021, Land Rover's flagship SUV remains one of the most desirable vehicles on the market.
Pricing starts around $92,000 for the standard Range Rover, with top-shelf trim levels retailing for over $200,000. The Range Rover has few competitors in the SUV world. As an alternative to a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, it's more affordably priced and has far better versatility. Land Rover also provides shoppers with many fabric and trim options for customizing their vehicles. Of course, the ultra-luxury brands already mentioned offer more configuration, but the Range Rover is still very impressive.
Four-wheel-drive comes standard, as does a height-adjustable air suspension. Many all-terrain technologies are also included for an effortless transition from pavement to steep, rocky trails. The Range Rover is even capable of wading through rivers. If superb luxury and rugged capabilities are required, few SUVs can hold a candle to a Range Rover.
The Lincoln Navigator is an American full-size SUV with excellent interior space and a strong foundation based on the Ford Expedition. Available in standard and extended-wheelbase versions, the Navigator is one of the largest luxury SUVs on the market, at up to 222 inches in length and 80 inches high. Only the redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade is larger.
The Navigator has a greater standard towing capacity than the Cadillac, with up to 8,700 pounds at the driver's disposal. Combined with the ability to seat up to eight people and store 36 cubic feet of cargo, the Navigator doubles as a beautiful road trip vehicle. It's entirely at home trailering the family camper to the mountains or hauling a boat for a day at the beach.
Pricing for the Navigator ranges from about $76,500 to $101,500, before options. Lincoln offers many fancy amenities, and the top-of-the-line Black Label trim comes with many impressive details. They include 30-way power-adjustable front seats with massaging functions, power-folding rear rows, adaptive cruise control, and a 20-speaker Revel surround-sound system. The Navigator is the rare luxury vehicle that doubles as comfy transport for large families.
No list of luxury vehicles would be complete without the addition of a Mercedes-Benz. The largest vehicle in the brand's wide-ranging lineup, the Mercedes-Benz GLS is a three-row SUV designed to provide similar refinement levels to the brand's flagship S-Class sedan. The GLS utilizes cutting-edge technology and a generous set of standard features to entice buyers away from full-size rivals like the BMW X7 and Lexus LX.
For its $76,000 starting price, the GLS has a potent engine and agile handling, making it engaging to drive around town. A standard bird's-eye-view camera and automatic parking assistance make parking a breeze. For 2021, Mercedes-Benz released two new versions, the AMG GLS 63 and Maybach GLS 600, taking the three-row SUV's driving excitement and bespoke luxury to all-new levels.
The GLS feels sportier and smaller on the road than other full-size SUVs. The cabin is insulated with sound-deadening materials, and the standard air suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease. While it's not the most rugged SUV in its class, the GLS is a great way to get the sophistication and style of a Mercedes-Benz with extra ride height and room to relax.
The Cadillac Escalade debuted roughly two decades ago as a lightly-modified version of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Five production generations later, a new Escalade debuts for the 2021 model year as a distinct entity in the luxury arena. The latest Escalade continues to exude the conspicuous signs of luxury that have long drawn customers to it, but now it's larger than ever.
The spec sheet is genuinely impressive. The seven-seat interior has up to 41.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rearmost row, which is twice the space of many SUVs. The Escalade's extended-length variant is 227 inches in length, making it the largest vehicle in its class. It's also one of the tallest and broadest. This sheer size gives the Escalade excellent cabin space in all three rows, making even the third-row comfortable enough for tall adults.
Cadillac's design team completely reenvisioned how they wanted the new Escalade's interior to look. A state-of-the-art, 16.9-inch infotainment screen dominates the dashboard, with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, and navigation. These features and others come standard for the Escalade's roughly $76,500 MSRP, making it one of the best values in the full-size segment.
When the Porsche Cayenne first landed on American shores in 2003, the public greeted it with some skepticism. An SUV from a sports car company? But take a spin in the Cayenne, and all questions are put to rest. Porsche has successfully blended its racing knowledge and technological magic into a midsize luxury SUV. No other midsize crossover has the Cayenne's razor-sharp handling and connection between the driver and the road.
Buyers can opt for turbocharged V6 or V8 engines, with up to 670 hp available. There are even plug-in hybrids for those wanting some efficiency with their performance -- the Cayenne E-Hybrid can drive solely on electricity for up to 27 miles. The Cayenne's trims come with an adjustable suspension with different programs for comfort, racing, economy, and more, changing the transmission and chassis mapping to suit the driver's desires.
The Cayenne has a $67,500 starting price. Still, it can be optioned with a dizzying number of performance and technology features, with prices easily surpassing $100,000. Shoppers can also opt for a sleek coupe-like style, giving the four-door Cayenne similar looks to a sports car. Like other Porsches, the Cayenne's cabin is packed with luxury features.
One of the most practical choices on this list, the Lexus RX is a midsize SUV with all of the practicality and everyday comfort one would expect from the Japanese automaker. As Toyota's well-regarded luxury division, Lexus shares its parent company's superb build quality and reputation for reliability. The RX has long been one of the highest-scoring midsize SUVs in terms of its dependability. And like other Lexus cars, its cabin is quiet and comfortable.
Despite its angular exterior styling, the Lexus doesn't rock the boat. It's not particularly sporty, though it has a very relaxing ride. All of the interior controls work as they should, and Lexus includes driver-assistance systems as standard for extra peace of mind. An available hybrid powertrain adds to its practical credentials, returning up to 31 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Lexus builds the RX in a few trim levels, including the Hybrid previously mentioned and an extended-wheelbase with a third-row seat. For around $45,500, the Lexus RX is one of the most comfortable and low-stress midsize SUVs available.
While the Infiniti QX80 is one of the less modern luxury SUVs, an effortless powertrain, rugged abilities, and excellent driving height help give it a spot in this rundown. The QX80 is still in its second generation of production, with technology and fuel efficiency that newer rivals have surpassed. Starting around $69,500, it faces tough competition from Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, and others.
The big Infiniti is powered by a 400-hp V8 that provides more than enough power to pass slower cars. The standard air suspension offers a cloud-like ride, while the tall driver seating position allows for excellent outward visibility. Second-row passengers enjoy standard captain's chairs and 41 inches of legroom, meaning they can stretch out in comfort until arriving at their destination. Remote engine start, adaptive cruise control, Bose audio, and a power liftgate are among the standard features.
The QX80 is based on the Nissan Armada, a vehicle well-known for its off-road skills. An available four-wheel-drive system gives the QX80 similarly great abilities when the pavement ends. Despite some outdated tech, Infiniti's flagship SUV remains one of the most imposing and capable SUVs on -- or off -- the road.
Those interested in electric cars have no doubt come across the Tesla name. The American automaker creates some of the farthest-driving and most luxurious electric cars on Earth. For the past six years, the Tesla Model X has offered this world-class driving range in an attractive midsize SUV. Prices start around $80,000, while a high-performance variant costs about $100,000, before options.
Tesla's all-electric powertrain means never having to stop at a gas station again. Instead, owners can recharge the vehicle at home or one of the thousands of high-speed charging stations located around North America. Fully charged, the Model X has up to 371 miles of range, making it a practical competitor to a gas SUV. Additionally, with up to 791 lb-ft of torque on tap instantly, the Model X is the quickest-accelerating production SUV.
Autonomous driving capabilities are available to make the stresses of commuting a thing of the past. Backseat passengers are treated to the trademark falcon-wing doors, heated seats, and their own climate controls. The cabin is roomy and silent, even at speed. Some high-priced rivals have fancier upholstery and trim than comes in the Model X's straightforward, futuristic interior. Nonetheless, for a view into the next generation of driving technology, the Tesla Model X is a clear choice.
The Volvo XC90 has been around in its current form for several years, yet it still has one of the most modern cabin designs offered in a midsize SUV. Available with six or seven seats, the midsize crossover SUV has a sleek exterior and a spacious cabin that is user-friendly yet upscale. Scandinavian touches are everywhere, from the natural wood trim to the carefully stitched dashboard. A vertical touchscreen comes standard, managing most of the vehicle's settings and infotainment.
Priced from about $50,500, the XC90 is also a showcase of Volvo's commitment to safety. It consistently scores well in IIHS and NHTSA crash-safety testing. At the same time, advanced driver safety technology comes standard across the lineup in addition to Volvo's extensive array of safety features.
The Volvo lacks rivals' sporty driving characteristics, but it works quite well as a comfortable everyday driver. An available plug-in hybrid engine provides an EPA-estimated 27 mpg combined, plus 18 miles of electric range. Passengers will appreciate the XC90's exquisite interior, smooth ride, and available high-tech features.
It wasn't always at the forefront of the three-row midsize category. Yet, the Acura MDX's 2022 model year redesign catapulted it to the front of its class with cutting-edge details and refinement. It stands out from the pack with its exciting style, and the MDX has sporty handling to match.
Though it's not the most athletic choice (that award goes to Porsche and BMW), the all-new MDX is leaps and bounds ahead of the old model. A double-wishbone front suspension helps the front-wheel-drive vehicle corner like a sports sedan. Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive is available for those living in colder climes. Standard paddle shifters can control the power from the 290-hp V6, should the driver feel the need to change gears manually.
The fourth-generation MDX's longer wheelbase gives it more interior space and a larger cargo capacity. Milano premium leather is available, and there is excellent in-cabin storage for passengers to place snacks or sunglasses. The MDX's 12.3-inch infotainment screen features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing for cord-free connectivity to virtually endless multimedia choices.
The Genesis GV80 is an all-new midsize crossover for 2021. Hyundai's luxury division, Genesis, has become a serious contender in the luxury sedan category with its sporty G70, critically-acclaimed G80, and flagship G90. The automaker has now stepped into premium SUV territory, offering many of the technologies and comfort amenities of high-priced German and British rivals for under $50,000.
The GV80 has a chiseled yet sophisticated exterior and a plush cabin with excellent space for its low starting price. A third-row seat is available, as is an air suspension, and driver safety aids come standard. The GV80 has impeccable attention to detail, with seamlessly integrated technology amongst soft leather seating. The massive 14.5-inch infotainment screen has wireless phone charging, navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
Genesis doesn't offer a hybrid powertrain, and some of the optional features can quickly raise the price. But for the money, no other midsize luxury SUV has as much interior comfort and standard amenities as the Genesis GV80.
As fun to drive as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne are, they lack a particular passion that only Italian cars can offer. The Maserati Levante is the solution, with the exhaust noise and exotic styling unique to its homeland's cars.
The Levante is a pleasure to drive on the highway, around turns, and through tunnels with the windows down. Rev the turbocharged V6 or V8 engine, and the Maserati releases a primeval howl, propelling the all-wheel-drive SUV to high speeds with no issue. An adaptive air suspension calculates road conditions to make adjustments. It can be programmed for smooth cruising or firmed-up fun on twisty roads.
Pricing starts around $75,000, though top trims surpass $150,000 with options. Adding to Maserati's uniqueness in its segment are available silk and leather seats. Cabin space is excellent for passengers, though the cargo space isn't as generous as competitors. Regardless, the Levante makes every drive a joy, bringing desire, horsepower, and unpredictability back to a vehicle class not often known for those traits.