Almost ironically, the large SUV class is not all that large. Most buyers seem to have migrated to midsize SUVs due to fuel-economy concerns, especially since several entries in that class offer three rows of seats. Almost by definition, these large SUVs get rather dismal fuel economy and can be a handful in around-town driving. That can end up being quite a price to pay for the added space and towing capacity. However, for some buyers, only the biggest of the big will do, for hauling both people and stuff. This class has seen a fair amount of activity in recent years—the Nissan Armada was redesigned for 2017, the Ford Expedition was redesigned for 2018, and new versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon debut as 2021 models.
One functional element that tends to separate midsize SUVs from large ones is towing capacity. There are no three-row midsize SUVs that offer a V8 engine, and few manage even a 5,000-lb towing capacity. By contrast, all large SUVs offer a V8 engine (save for the Ford Expedition, which has a satisfyingly powerful turbocharged V6), and maximum towing capacity starts at about 7,400 lbs and goes up to about 9,000 lbs—and some models come in heavy-duty versions that go even higher than that.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
As mentioned above, General Motors’ full-size SUVs are all redesigned for 2021, gaining fresh styling, a revamped chassis, and a host of new technology features. The all-new Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, are even longer than before, with increased passenger and cargo room. They also have independent rear suspensions for the first time, and a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine is optional on many trim levels.
The Dodge Durango gets revised front-end styling and a new instrument panel with an available 10.1-inch display screen. Also new is the high-performance Durango SRT Hellcat, with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 rated at 710 horsepower. Nissan is working on a refreshed version of the Armada, with updated styling and possible powertrain and infotainment-system tweaks, that could debut as a 2021 model.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
Both the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon are offered in extended-length versions: the Chevrolet Suburban and similar GMC Yukon XL, which add 13.2 inches in wheelbase and 15 inches in overall length. The Ford Expedition also offers extended-wheelbase models, called Expedition MAX, that are about 12 inches longer overall.
Most entries in this class seat up to eight passengers, but the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and similar GMC Yukon and Yukon XL seat up to nine. At the other end of the scale, the Dodge Durango seats up to seven. The Chevrolet Tahoe High Country and Suburban High Country, Ford Expedition Platinum, GMC Yukon/Yukon XL Denali, Nissan Armada Platinum, and Toyota Sequoia Platinum are all high-end offerings that rival some premium large SUVs for luxurious style and price.
The Dodge Durango also stands out for its high-performance SRT 392 model, which comes standard with a 475-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and sport-tuned suspension. With its 710-hp supercharged V8, the new Durango SRT Hellcat model goes even further.