Midsize SUVs are sort of the navel of the automotive world: Just about every mass-market company has one. In fact, most have two.
That’s probably because midsize models were long the biggest selling segment in the SUV market. This class includes a good number of two-row, 5-passenger models, as well as three-row models that seat 7 or 8 passengers. All except one are crossovers: high-riding wagons offering all-wheel drive but built on passenger-car platforms.
As of now, only the Toyota 4Runner is of the truck-type, body-on-frame design. Body-on-frame SUVs tend to have higher towing limits, and are sometimes aimed more at off-road driving.
All models in this class offer all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, the latter sometimes available in part- and full-time versions. With all-wheel drive, it’s always engaged and the vehicle decides whether power should go to all four wheels. With 4-wheel drive, the driver can choose between 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. Some Toyota 4Runner models offer a part-time 4-wheel-drive system, which is intended for severe off-road work and cannot be left engaged on dry pavement for fear of driveline wear. That’s not a concern with full-time 4-wheel drive.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2022
The new-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup comes into full fruition with the introduction of a redesigned two-row, 5-passenger Grand Cherokee that follows on the heels of the new three-row, 6/7-passenger Grand Cherokee L version that launched as a 2021 model. The previous-gen Grand Cherokee’s SRT and Trackhawk performance versions are dropped, at least for now, but the off-road-oriented Trailhawk version continues and a plug-in-hybrid 4xe model—with a turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder paired with two electric motors and a 17-kWh battery pack, for an estimated all-electric driving range of 25 miles—joins the line.
The Nissan Pathfinder is redesigned, gaining edgier styling, a more contemporary interior design, a host of newly available technology features, and a 9-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous CVT.
The Chevrolet Traverse receives freshened front-end styling and an updated infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. After gaining an off-road-oriented Timberline model as a mid-2021 addition, the Ford Explorer gets a ST-Line sport-appearance package, and a rear-wheel-drive version of the performance-oriented ST model. The Honda Passport gets fresh front-end styling with a more-rugged look, an off-road-appearance Trailsport trim, and an HPD appearance package. The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento both add plug-in-hybrid versions, and the Santa Fe gains an off-road-appearance XRT trim level. The Subaru Ascent, Toyota 4Runner, and Toyota Highlander all get special-appearance models. Looking a bit further ahead, the Mazda CX-9 is slated to be replaced in the near future by an all-new CX-90 three-row SUV with an inline 6-cylinder engine and a plug-in-hybrid variant. A two-row version named CX-70 is also slated to join the Mazda SUV lineup.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
Aside from the aforementioned Toyota 4Runner, the only vehicles that really stand out are the Jeep Grand Cherokee and new Grand Cherokee L. They’re the only vehicles in the class to offer a V8 engine, and along with the 4Runner, both Grand Cherokees offer off-road capabilities beyond the class norm when properly equipped. The Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, and Toyota Highlander and Venza all offer hybrid powertrains; the Santa Fe, Sorento, and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer plug-in-hybrid versions..
Vehicles in the Midsize Crossover/SUV class:
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport