Midsize SUVs are sort of the navel of the automotive world: Just about every mass-market company has one. In fact, some 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.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2020
The midsize crossover/SUV class gains three new entrants and two redesigned models for 2020. The Hyundai Palisade is an all-new three-row SUV that slots in above the Santa Fe and replaces the outgoing Santa Fe XL in Hyundai’s lineup. The Palisade shares basic chassis and its 291-hp 3.8-liter V6 with the new-for-2020 Kia Telluride, but the two vehicles have completely different styling inside and out, as well as some unique available features. Volkswagen is set to add a new two-row, 5-passenger version of its three-row Atlas SUV, which debuted as a 2018 model. The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport will share the Atlas’s 4-cylinder and V6 powertrains, but it will be 5.7 inches shorter in overall length and feature a sporty-looking sloped rear roofline.
The Ford Explorer is completely redesigned, moving from a frontwheel-drive platform to new rearwheel-drive architecture. The lineup expands to include a high-performance ST model with a 400-hp turbo V6, and a hybrid model with a gas/electric V6 powertrain that produces a total of 318 horsepower. The Toyota Highlander is redesigned on a new platform that is 2.4 inches longer overall, with the additional length at the rear of the vehicle to expand cargo volume. The gasoline V6 and gas/electric hybrid powertrains largely carry over, and newly available features include Android Auto connectivity (in addition to Apple CarPlay) and a 12.3-inch touchscreen display.
After its debut last year, the Chevrolet Blazer gets an available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 230 horsepower. The GMC Acadia gets a refresh that includes a styling facelift, a 9-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 6-speed, a newly available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and a rugged looking AT4 trim level. The Jeep Grand Cherokee loses its previously available diesel engine. The Toyota 4Runner adds a specially trimmed Venture Edition model that includes a large Yakima-brand roof rack. The Ford Flex is discontinued.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
Aside from the aforementioned Toyota 4Runner, the only vehicle that really stands out is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s the sole vehicle in the class to offer a V8 engine, and its high-performance SRT and Trackhawk versions have even more powerful V8 engines. The Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander are the only hybrids available in the class.
Vehicles in the Midsize Crossover/SUV class:
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport