The Best SUVs for Family Road Trips

Updated on Jun 17, 2024

It’s road trip season! 

That time of year when we take a little R&R to enjoy one of those classic American traditions with our families. Whether headed to the coast with your boat for a week on the water or trekking up to the mountains for a stay at your favorite camping spot, the family road trip is all about enjoying the journey and the destination. 

While the old-fashioned family station wagon (complete with rear-facing seats) is no more, today’s vehicle market is full of incredible family road trip machines. To road trip the right way, your chosen road trip machine must have the right combination of capability, interior space, and technology to keep the driver and passengers happy on those long road warrior days.

Family SUVs Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Determining the best SUV for your family really depends on your family's size and what you need your SUV to do. 

Two-row SUVs are ideal for families of four or less, allowing ample space for seating and a large cargo hold to carry all your stuff. If you have a family of five or more, it’s time to start looking at three-row options that give everyone plenty of space and provide enough room to carry all the gear your family needs. Also, if you travel with pets, you should consider bumping up the size to avoid having Fido planted in your passenger's lap for the entire drive. 

Other considerations include towing capacity or the ability to travel far off the beaten path with a proper all-wheel or four-wheel drive system. These days, you also have to consider whether you want an electric, hybrid, or purely gasoline-powered family machine as well because the options are plentiful. 

We’ll provide various options across a wide range of budgets so you can determine which family SUV is best for your troop. 

Ready to hit the road? Let’s do this. 

Best SUV For Large Families: Jeep Wagoneer

  • Luxurious and Spacious Interior: The Jeep features a seriously luxurious interior with an impressive fit and finish, offering huge space across all three rows with seating for eight as standard.

  • Exceptional Performance: This vehicle can tow up to 10,000 pounds and excels off-road, staying true to its Jeep heritage.

  • Advanced Technology and Comfort: Enjoy a serene ride with incredible technology, including three separate screens for passengers, making road trips a breeze.

If you’re looking for the ultimate family SUV that does it all, look no further than the Jeep Wagoneer. 

Inside, the Jeep Wagoneer offers one of the nicest interiors on any vehicle and at any price point. In addition to supreme materials, the Wagoneer boasts a staggering amount of passenger space and standard seating for seven. More minivan than SUV, every seat in this rig is comfortable and sized right for adults and children alike. For big families, Jeep offers an extended wheelbase L model with a staggering 42.1 cubic feet of cargo space with all three rows in action and an even more staggering 130.9 cubic feet with the seats folded. 

The Jeep Wagoneer is a tech-lover's dream on wheels. A massive 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, loaded with Uconnect 5, greets you and offers seamless smartphone integration, navigation, and voice command. Passengers can enjoy their own entertainment on rear-seat screens, perfect for keeping the kids occupied on long trips. With a premium McIntosh audio system, you'll feel like you're in the front row at a concert, and the advanced driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist make the journey safer and more enjoyable.

Under the hood, an all-new “Hurricane” 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 engine offers 420 horsepower and 468 lb-ft. of torque on standard models and a stonking 510 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. of torque on L models. Different versions of Jeep’s Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system are available, depending on the trim level, offering active families the chance to really get off the beaten track. Have a boat or large travel trailer? The Wagoneer can handle up to 10,000 pounds. 

While the Jeep Wagoneer isn’t the budget option, it is, by far, the biggest bang for the buck for larger families.

Honorable Mention: Kia Telluride

  • Family-Friendly Interior: The Kia Telluride's spacious and practical interior comfortably accommodates up to eight passengers across three rows.

  • Powerful and Smooth Performance: Delivering 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, the Telluride provides smooth and responsive performance with a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds.

  • Advanced Technology and Affordability: The Telluride offers an intuitive infotainment system with a large touchscreen, making it a budget-friendly option with a good range of technology.

If the Jeep Wagoneer is out of the budget or a bit too much of a vehicle, the Kia Telluride is a large-ish midsize SUV that offers a fantastic blend of family friendliness. 

The interior of the Kia Telluride is designed with both comfort and practicality in mind. Spacious and thoughtfully laid out, it comfortably accommodates up to eight passengers across three rows. High-quality materials and a clean, modern design give the cabin a premium feel. The infotainment system is intuitive and features a large touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The Telluride also offers ample cargo space and convenient storage solutions, making it well-suited for family trips and daily commutes.

Every Kia Telluride comes equipped with a strong 3.8-liter V6 engine, delivering 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain provides smooth and responsive performance, whether you're navigating city streets or cruising on the highway with a full family in tow. The Telluride's towing capacity is impressive for its class, capable of hauling up to 5,000 pounds.

Overall, the Telluride is an awesome option that blends a more budget-friendly price point with a good range of capabilities. 

Best Family SUV for Smaller Families: Subaru Outback 

  • Unique and Practical Design: The Subaru Outback's wagon-like profile provides a superior center of gravity for better handling and up to 9.5 inches of ground clearance for excellent off-road capability.

  • Spacious and High-Quality Interior: The spacious interior features two rows of seats, a 32.6 cubic-foot cargo area, an 11.6-inch infotainment system, and a suite of EyeSight safety features, making it perfect for family trips.

  • Smooth Ride and Versatile Powertrains: The Outback offers a smooth ride with efficient powertrain options, including a Boxer four-cylinder engine achieving over 30 MPG and a turbocharged engine with 260 horsepower. 

I know we’re flirting with the traditional definition of an SUV here, but there’s no doubt that the Subaru Outback is one of the best vehicles for family duty that money can buy. 

Instead of a traditional SUV profile, the Outback sticks with roots by rocking a tall, wagonlike profile. In addition to standing out, this lower height provides a superior center of gravity for carving up the canyon on the way to your favorite camping or fishing destination. Up to 9.5” inches of ground clearance on Wilderness models (8.5” on standard models) means that even when the road ends, the Outback can keep going better than most family SUVs. 

What really makes the Outback great for a road trip is the spacious, high-quality interior that offers two spacious rows of seats and a large 32.6 cubic foot cargo area. Whether you’re transporting adults or kids in child seats, there is plenty of room in nearly every direction to stretch out. A massive 11.6” infotainment system, optional Harman Kardon stereo, and a full suite of EyeSight safety features add to the appeal. 

Out on the road, the Outback continues to shine with a remarkably smooth and quiet ride. Bumps, expansion joints, and potholes hardly transmit to the interior. Powertrain options include an efficient Boxer four-cylinder with 182 horsepower that achieves over 30 MPG on the highway or a punchy turbocharged Boxer with 260 horsepower. Each engine is hooked to Subaru’s CVT, which is nearly seamless in this application. 

Add it all up, and you have one of the safest, most off-road-capable SUVs on the market. Plus, it is priced at or below competitors, making it a great value as well.

Honorable Mention: Mazda CX-50 

  • Stylish and Comfortable: The Mazda CX-50 features a sleek design and a high-quality interior with ample room for passengers and cargo.

  • Balanced Performance: It offers a Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter engine, with an available turbocharged variant for additional power.

  • Smooth Handling: The CX-50 boasts precise steering, a well-tuned suspension, and Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system for enhanced traction and stability.

A blend of style, on-road driving manners, and high-quality interior make the Mazda CX-50 a compelling alternative for a smaller family SUV. 

This relatively new model features sleek, aerodynamic design characteristics, a well-appointed cabin with high-quality materials, and a layout prioritizing driver and passenger comfort. The interior space is thoughtfully designed, providing ample room for passengers and cargo, making it versatile for various needs, from daily commutes to that long road trip to grandmas.

Performance-wise, the CX-50 is equipped with a Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter engine that effectively balances power and efficiency. A turbocharged variant with 320 lb-ft of torque is available for those looking for additional performance, providing more power without sacrificing the vehicle's overall fuel efficiency. 

Handling the CX-50 is another highlight, with precise steering and a well-tuned suspension system that offers a smooth and controlled driving experience. Dare we say, the CX-50 is even a bit sporty. Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system enhances traction and stability across different driving conditions, making the CX-50 capable on city streets or more challenging terrains. 

This combination of design, comfort, and performance makes the Mazda CX-50 a strong contender for a solid family SUV that’s ready for your next road trip. 

It’s a Good Day To Be an SUV Fan 

These vehicles represent a small smattering of what’s out there on the market, which is simply awesome. 

This means buyers have more choices than ever before and more opportunities to find the right vehicle for their families' needs. Once you get your hands on a family SUV, be sure to customize the exterior and interior with things like durable floor mats to make sure that your interior stays pristine, even after your kids spill their fast food soda on the floor. Other must-have accessories include cargo carriers, awnings for hot summer days, or a roof-top tent

However you decide to outfit your family SUV, have fun, and make the most of the remarkable experience that is the great American road trip. 

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