The modern automotive landscape is littered with SUVs, which means luxury buyers are confronted with a bewildering array of options at nearly every conceivable size and price point. Whether you’re looking for a comfortable daily driver, a capable rock crawler or an imposing flagship, there’s seemingly no end to the choices before you.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to the best of what’s out there today, doing away with the sometimes confusing jargon and getting down to the heart of the matter. Below, you’ll find our picks for the best-in-class SUVs, split into categories you actually care about: best for towing, best for going off-road, best electric and even best hybrid that’s a performance truck in disguise.
These rides represent the most notable players on the high-end SUV scene today, and we’ve even picked out specific recommendations for the best trim for each vehicle to make your shopping even easier.
Best SUV for Towing: 2022 Lincoln Navigator
The most recent Lincoln Navigator isn’t just an opulent rolling palace that’s perfect for transporting you and your entire extended family. In addition to a styling refresh, the 2022 model year additionally comes with updated infotainment, the new Active Glide semi-autonomous driving system and several additional cabin decors to choose from. The Navigator also continues to come up big in the towing department. Two-wheel drive models boast 8,700 lbs of trailering capacity, and four-wheel drive editions aren’t far behind, helping make the Navigator the best luxury option out there if you’ve got a heavy trailer to tug from A to B.
Best Trim Choice: The Reserve trim (whether you go standard or long wheelbase) is the sweet spot for Navigator buyers. It’s where you’ll find must-haves like adaptive cruise control, a full panoramic sunroof, 24-way adjustable front seats, along with better access to options and packages, all at a much more reasonable price than the top-tier Black Label trim.
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Best Electric SUV: 2022 Tesla Model X
Despite a growing cadre of competitors, when it comes to upscale luxury electric SUVs, the 2022 Tesla Model X still holds considerable sway over the plug-in crowd. With all-wheel drive, 360 miles of range on a single charge and straight-line speed that can shame most modern sport sedans (and quite a few dedicated performance cars, too, if you opt for the Plaid model’s 1,020-horsepower three-motor setup), the Model X has almost enough charm to make you forget about its funky yoke steering wheel and the unusual set of “Falcon Wing” doors that pop up for access to the second row of seating. Almost.
Best Trim Choice: Despite hitting 60 mph in an astonishing 2.5 seconds, we don’t recommend subjecting yourself to the Model X Plaid’s $120K starting price. Instead, stick with the Long Range and its sub-$100K ask, and enjoy an extra 30 miles of driving distance over its hyper-muscled cousin.
Best Three-Row SUV: 2022 BMW X7
The BMW X7 is the German automaker’s very first full-size SUV, and it’s one of those rare instances where an initial effort ends up being a class leader. A seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle that drives smaller than its massive bulk suggests, the X7 manages to embody power, grace and elegance in a package that one-ups BMW’s 7 Series sedan in terms of style and road presence. It’s hard to think of a better all-around, full-size family option among its luxury cohort regardless of whether you stick with its zippy entry-level turbocharged six-cylinder engine or go all-out with the Alpina model’s 612-horsepower turbo V8.
Best Trim Choice: In this instance, it’s worth it to step up from base to the BMW X7’s M50i trim level, as the eight-cylinder option slices a second from the SUV’s 0-60 time, dabs in an extra dose of standard equipment and adds a sleeker touch to the vehicle’s looks with a sporty body kit.
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Best Sports-Car Killer: 2022 Porsche Macan GTS
In the pantheon of SUVs that legitimately deliver a sports car-like driving experience, few come as close to living up to the hype as the 2022 Porsche Macan GTS. The punchiest member of the Macan family tree, the GTS delivers 434 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbo V6, power that is mellifluously allotted to all four wheels and managed by a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. More than its snarl, however, it’s the balance that impresses the most: think of it like an athlete wearing a backpack and you’ve got the general idea of just how fun and sticky the sport-utility feels when pushed to the limit on a twisty stretch of road.
Best Trim Choice: The GTS is the Macan to target (over and above the base model and the S), but Porsche offers nearly unlimited customization for the hauler via options and packages. Have at it for as long as your wallet holds out.
Best High-Output Hooligan: 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S
There’s a certain class of luxury SUV that’s almost on the verge of extinction. We’re talking about fire-breathing, anti-social, eight-cylinder beasts just as likely to lay a patch of rubber as they are to handle the daily commute. Of these, the 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S stands out as one of the haughtiest hooligans to ever wake up your neighbors on cold-start. With 503 horsepower on tap, the GLC63 S (finally available outside of its four-door “coupe” body style for 2022) is rambunctious, able to reach 60 mph in just a tick or two over three seconds, and scarcely able to contain its disdain for the local constabulary at idle. Grab one before they’re all gone, pop the sunroof and let your Teutonic mullet fly.
Best Trim Choice: The GLC63 S is offered in a single trim, but options abound for personalizing the SUV, including the ghostly MBUX Interior Assistant that realizes your amateur magician dreams by letting you turn lights on simply by pointing at them.
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Best Off-Road 4×4 SUV: 2022 Land Rover Defender
There’s a modicum of pavement escape built into nearly every luxury SUV, but there’s another class of people mover that prioritizes off-road prowess above and beyond the occasional gravel road or grassy lawn. The 2022 Land Rover Defender (available in two-door 90 and four-door 110 editions) reintroduces the brand’s most rugged model to American audiences, walking the line between hardcore, go-anywhere adventure and refined daily driving. Matched with a range of turbocharged engine options and upright, near-retro styling, the Defender is the upscale alternative to the Jeep Wrangler we’ve all been waiting for.
Best Trim Choice: The Defender 90 X-Dynamic HSE combines the nimble character of the short-wheelbase two-door body style with a 395-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine and just enough gear to keep you comfortable miles from civilization.
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Best Plug-In Hybrid SUV: 2022 BMW X5 xDrive45e
Would you believe that the best version of the BMW X5 counts on a wall plug rather than M-branded performance to elevate it above its brethren? The X5 xDrive45e Plug-In Hybrid manages to somehow deliver it all: 30 miles of battery-only operation (even at highway speeds), startling acceleration that’s above and beyond what the average driver requires, and an ultra-useful interior that’s as comfortable as it is practical. Priced only slightly higher than the base X5, and significantly less expensive than the somewhat quicker and definitely thirstier M50i V8 model, the xDrive45e’s electron-sipping ways cover the vast majority of American commutes, saving you from the fuel pump until it’s time to seamlessly transition to the gas engine for an extended road trip.
Best Trim Choice: The M Sport trim adds body-color cladding and dark window trim to slim down the X5’s proportions. It’s a much cleaner-looking package for the mid-size SUV.
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Best Hybrid SUV: 2022 Lexus RX 450h
Don’t want to plug in but still seeking to reduce your monthly fuel bill? The 2022 Lexus 450h is the ultimate electrically assisted luxury appliance. Before you think we’re casting shade on the hybrid version of Lexus’s most popular model, know that we use that term with the greatest respect. The RX 450h fits seamlessly into almost any family’s lifestyle, providing a quiet, insulated premium driving experience, while at the same time delivering 30 mpg in combined driving. It’s the kind of vehicle you’ll never have to think twice about, and as long as you keep up with the factory’s oil change schedule you won’t be trading it in for your next Lexus before the decade is out, either.
Best Trim Choice: Avoid the F Sport AWD and the long-wheelbase 450hL, and stick with the base 450h AWD. It’s still the smoothest-driving and best-priced RX in the fold.
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Best Compact SUV: 2022 Volvo XC40
It’s taken nearly a decade of solid design effort, but Volvo is finally a true luxury contender — and perhaps its most compelling offering is also one of its most affordable. The 2022 Volvo XC40 is a stand-out in a segment traditionally dominated by German compact SUVs, a vehicle that flaunts its attractive lines and surprisingly upscale interior without sacrificing the utility that buyers expect from a small people mover. The most individual option in a sea of familiar faces, the XC40 drops the sporty façade put up by most premium haulers and emphasizes day-to-day comfort and style over corner-crushing calisthenics.
Best Trim Choice: Skip the expensive XC40 Recharge EV and instead opt for the T5 Momentum’s combination of respectable power (248 horses) and relaxed driving character.
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Best Secret Wagon: 2022 Audi A6 Allroad
Not all SUVs are actually SUVs. Keen on getting Euro-market long-roofs into wagon-shunning American garages, a certain subset of luxury brands have been disguising traditional family fare as slightly lifted, plastic-clad “sport-utilities.” Of these, the 2022 Audi A6 Allroad is your best bet for snagging a fun-to-drive wagon in a socially-acceptable crossover package. Featuring 335 horsepower from a turbocharged V6, a generously appointed cabin and an air suspension that can puff up another inch of ground clearance should you be confronted by true blue SUV bullies, the A6 Allroad is a versatile antidote to the same-same designs dominating today’s roads.
Best Trim Choice: The Premium Plus trim is our choice thanks to its generous equipment level. Almost everything offered by the top-tier Prestige can be added a la carte to the Premium Plus as an option should you feel the need for additional driver assistance features.
Best Hybrid SUV That’s a Performance Truck in Disguise: 2022 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid
While some hybrids are focused on balancing power and performance, others are more transparent about their bias towards the latter. The 2022 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid falls squarely into this camp, supplementing the grunt provided by its twin-turbo V8 with a battery-driven electric motor that together produce a startling 670 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque. How many other PHEV SUVs out there promise a top speed of 183 mph or come with bright-green brake calipers designed to let everyone around you know that you’re no stranger to plugging in? None. Absolutely none.
Best Trim Choice: As with most Porsche models, the Turbo S E-Hybrid comes in a single trim level that’s endlessly configurable by way of the options list.
Best Old-School Flagship SUV: 2022 Land Rover Range Rover
The Land Rover Range Rover cuts an intriguing profile among current luxury SUV flagships. Unquestionably versatile — few other full-sizers can match its combination of off-road acumen and on-road comfort — the Range Rover chooses outright brawn over genteel sophistication with its available 518-horsepower supercharged V8 standing alone against a sea of continental turbocharged foes. That instant-on muscle is backed by an elegant passenger compartment notable for turning its back on the featureless obsidian dashboards of screen-bedecked rivals in favor of a less overstimulated experience. Aristocratic, rather than technocratic, the Range Rover rules from the top of the Land Rover lineup with one eye firmly locked on the brand’s heritage.
Yes, this is the older generation model. On October 26, Land Rover unveiled a new version of the Range Rover which will go on sale in the spring. When it does, both the older and newer vehicles will be sold under the 2022 model year. Until we get a chance to experience the new Range Rover, we still recommend this previous generation.
Best Trim Choice: The standard-wheelbase Autobiography trim, with its supercharged V8 and over-the-top interior trappings, is the best way to book a ticket into Range Rover country.
Best Throwback SUV: 2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
“Throwback” and “old school” aren’t exactly synonyms. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class turns back the clock much further than the Range Rover by stubbornly clinging to the same military-inspired styling that has long defined its box-like design, while at the same time maintaining the trio of locking differentials that afford it an aura of unstoppability in off-road driving conditions. We’re here for it, and feel the need to point out that this is all on top of a recent under-the-skin redesign that thoroughly modernized the most important mechanical and interior bits of the ultra-popular SUV, fully co-opting it into the 21st century. Think of it as an immortal android replica of one of the industry’s most charismatic dinosaurs and you’ve got a handle on the G-Class’s cult of personality.
Best Trim Choice: Avoid the dumb fun of the AMG-tuned G63 and instead drive home in the better-balanced and still extremely powerful G550 instead for the best overall G-Class experience.
Best Hot Hatch in Disguise: 2021 BMW X2 M35i
BMW doesn’t currently make a high performance hatchback — at least, not officially. If it did, however, it would be called the X2 M35i, a subcompact crossover that does a better hot hatch impersonation than any other sport-utility vehicle on the market. Its somewhat tall ride height disguises a planted and nimble M Sport suspension setup that’s all too eager to play nice with the X2’s 301-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the cabin’s bolstered front seats and subtle M accents do their best to convince you to come along for the ride. It’s the most fun you can have in a pint-size hauler, and if BMW insists on calling it an SUV, we’ll just have to wink and nod in agreement on our way to our favorite back road.
Best Trim Choice: The standard M Performance trim’s design is our preference over the blacked-out Shadowline, as it gives the X2 M35i a little more detail in its presentation. Make sure to opt for one of the several searing metallic colors on the option sheet for maximum effect.
Best SUV for Hauling Cargo: 2022 Cadillac Escalade ESV
There’s very little out there that can swallow as much [fill in the blank] as the 2022 Cadillac Escalade ESV. The extended version of Cadillac’s behemoth features a whopping 126.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats, thanks in part to a recent redesign that dropped the load floor down and added a more compact independent rear suspension setup in place of the older live axle. That’s 16 cubic feet more than the standard Escalade, or roughly the equivalent of a mid-size sedan’s trunk in terms of extra space. A 6.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 ensures that your cargo will get from A to B without issue, while magnetically adjustable shocks insulate from even the most abrupt asphalt insults.
Best Trim Choice: The Premium Luxury Platinum bundles the best tech and softest materials under the Escalade’s roof.
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Best Threat to the Established Order: 2022 Genesis GV80
Creating an all-new luxury brand from whole cloth is an incredibly expensive enterprise. Spending even a few moments behind the wheel of the 2022 Genesis GV80 eloquently demonstrates where each and every one of those billions of dollars invested by parent company Hyundai went. The GV80 isn’t just on par with the big-budget bogeys in the premium SUV world, it’s actually putting daylight between them and its back bumper when it comes to detailed interior design, arresting exterior styling, and outstanding value and performance for the money. Don’t just buy it to be different — buy it to get ahead of the game.
Best Trim Choice: The 375-horsepower GV80 3.5T AWD avoids the (vestigial) third row of seating and allows you to add the Prestige package’s Nappa leather and upgraded infotainment.
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Best Bespoke SUV: 2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
The 2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is intended to answer the ultra-high-end SUV question, no matter how it might be posed. Key to the Cullinan’s appeal — aside from its off-road bonafides, and its Spirit of Ecstasy pedigree, of course — is its builder’s ability to produce exactly the specification any individual might desire, with almost no limits to granularity when it comes to design or features. If you’ve never bought anything off the shelf in your life, the Cullinan is the sport-utility for you. If you’re the kind of person who buys everything on the shelf rather than be paralyzed by indecision, the Cullinan is, well, also for you.
Best Trim Choice: The one you’re currently imagining.
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