Some vehicles are placed in this class more for their “premium” status than for being exceptionally large. In fact, there’s quite a size difference between the smallest in the class and the largest, though all are plenty spacious in the grand scheme of things. In terms of length, the smallest entry is the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser at 195 inches stem to stern. Contrast that to the longest—the Cadillac Escalade ESV—at 226.9 inches. But the Land Cruiser starts at a thoroughly premium $85,000, so we feel its inclusion in the class is entirely justified.
Speaking of prices, the least expensive vehicle in this class— the Audi Q7—starts around $55,000, so consider that the ante. The rest start above $65,000 and go up considerably from there.
All but a couple of the SUVs on this list offer versions with three rows of seats, typically with 7- or 8-passenger capacity. They all either come standard with all-wheel drive or offer it in place of rear-wheel drive.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
The Cadillac Escalade and extended-length Escalade ESV are redesigned, gaining more interior space, independent rear suspension for the first time, and a host of new comfort and technology features. A 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower is standard, and a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine is available. Among the new features are an extra-large curved-screen LED instrument display and infotainment screen, AKG-brand premium audio system, augmented-reality navigation system, and the latest version of Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver-assistance system.
The BMW X7 lineup adds a 612-hp Alpina XB7 model and an ultra-limited-production M50i Dark Shadow Edition. The xDrive50i has been discontinued, and the xDrive40i now includes a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The Land Rover Range Rover celebrates the model’s fiftieth anniversary with three new special editions: the Autobiography Fifty Edition, HSE Westminster Edition, and SVAutobiography Dynamic Black Edition.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class gets a new ultra-luxury Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 model with unique interior and exterior trim. Also new is the high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLS63, which packs a 603-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. The Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage model is now offered with third-row seating.
Looking a bit further ahead, Jeep is preparing to enter the premium large SUV category with revived Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer 3-row SUVs. They are slated to debut in the 2021 calendar year as 2022 models.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
The Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX 570, and Toyota Land Cruiser offer a higher level of rough-terrain capability than the other vehicles in this class. With its available plug-in-hybrid, diesel V6, and gasoline 6-cylinder and V8 powertrains, the Range Rover offers the most diverse powertrain lineup. Deep-pocketed shoppers with a need for speed should look to the Audi Q8, Range Rover, and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class lines: The Range Rover offers supercharged 5.0-liter V8 models with 518 or 557 horsepower, the Audi RS Q8 has 591 hp, and the new Mercedes-Benz AMG GLS63 has 603 hp.