Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were designed to be able to go places where other cars couldn't. With all-wheel drive systems, high ground clearance, and powerful engines, they seldom needed a road. However, these days, SUVs are a status symbol for the suburbs, soccer moms, and trust fund kids.
Just two decades back, SUVs were focused on durability... and luxury was more of a nice-to-have than a must-have detail. But now, they are becoming more and more flashy and luxurious. Let's see what 2023 has in store in terms of SUVs.
Best: Ford Bronco Sport
Now we are talking about a real SUV, not a pavement princess pretending to be a tough kid. The Bronco Sport is the type of vehicle that you can take to the office on weekdays and camping on weekends.
While the 2023 model is largely the same as last year's, Ford does offer two new limited-edition trims: The Heritage and Heritage Limited. The regular models will still have last year's 181-hp 1.5L 3-cylinder as the standard engine, but you will get a 245-hp 2.0L four-cylinder in the fancy models.
Worst: Hyundai Kona
While some suggest the Kona is just an up-jumped hatchback with marginally higher ground clearance, Hyundai sells it as a subcompact SUV. You can get the cute little car with a dino-juice engine or an EV.
The gas-powered version comes with a 2.0L engine that puts out just 147 horsepower, which is not great for a car of this stature. The EV version has a slightly better 201-hp engine with 258 miles of the claimed range.
Best: Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai's are some of the most rapidly evolving car designs of any company, and they are tasteful too. The Tucson is one of the most good-looking compact SUVs in the economy class.
For 2023, it has an entirely new design inspired by the Elantra and Sonata, if you cannot already tell. The standard engine will be a 2.5L gas-powered one with 187 horsepower, but you can also get a 226-hp turbo 1.6L or a 261-hp hybrid as well.
Worst: Volkswagen Tiguan
The Tiguan is one of the lesser-known but the best compact SUV options on the market. It only comes with a 2.0L turbocharged engine that delivers 184 horsepower in a very smooth fashion. While the standard configuration is a front-wheel drive, you can also get it with VW's 4-Motion AWD.
The bad thing about the Tiguan is that while it is not fast (just like any SUV in its class), it is also not good at fuel consumption. Otherwise, it is a good option.
Best: Mercedes-AMG GLC-Class
Another option from Germany is the Merc GLC if you want a luxury compact SUV that precisely balances form and function. Unlike most coupe-style crossover SUVs where the front-wheel drive is the norm, this Mercedes also comes in rear-wheel drive as standard, while Mercedes's 4Matic AWD is optional.
Motivation is provided by a 2.0L turbo-charged engine that, coupled with a 48-volt hybrid system, puts out 258 horses, not crazy high, but enough to give this luxury compact crossover respectable acceleration and mobility.
Worst: Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee is another large SUV, but it is tasteful in all ways; we have to give it that.
The Grand Cherokee has dropped the 5.7L V8 for this model year, and now you can either have it with the V6 or a turbo I4 with some hybrid sorcery enabling it to make more power despite its smaller size as compared to the V6.
Best: Kia Telluride
If you are looking for an SUV for not a lot of money, you cannot beat what Kia is offering with the Telluride. It has many features that are only available in much more expensive 'luxury' SUVs.
The highlight is not the 291-hp engine which needs a lot to be desired in this SUV, but the interior that feels upscale and luxurious. Some of the features in the interior include a memory function for the front seats, heating and ventilation on all of them, and Nappa leather upholstery.
Worst: Suzuki Jimny
The Jimny is one of the most affordable ways to get into the off-road games. This tiny, lightweight SUV is designed to be an actual off-road capable machine and not just an SUV for the show.
The only engine option is a 101-hp 1.5L petrol motor, which is not something to be proud of. But still, largely due to its lightweight body, this SUV can go places some of the bigger and more expensive ones cannot.
Best: Land Rover Defender 130
For a very long time, the Defender was Land Rover's answer to America's Jeeps. Though notoriously unreliable, it meant business and had the unparalleled off-road capability. However, with the latest models, Land Rover has changed the very image of this SUV.
The Defender is now not only more reliable but also more upscale, luxurious, and powerful. You can get it with a turbocharged 4-cylinder, an inline-6, or even a supercharged V8. The 2023 Defender retains the off-roading capabilities of the classics and borrows luxury from the Range Rover, making it a pretty sweet deal.
Best: Lamborghini Urus Performante
The Urus is not just another SUV with a supercar name; it can be more accurately described as a supercar disguised as an SUV, and it has proven time and time again... the latest example being the record-breaking run at Pikes Peak.
It's not just the 657-hp V8 that makes the Performante great; it combines adaptive dampers, clever aerodynamics, aggressive brakes, and the super-sticky Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires that all come together to create this monster.
Best: Jaguar F-Pace
If you think this Jag looks a little bit too much like the F-Type sports car, you are not mistaken. The F-Pace gets a lot of styling cues and even some performance characteristics from the F-Type.
There can hardly be an SUV with more athletic road manners than the F-Pace. You will feel like driving a sedan while behind the wheel of this one. The trim options include a 246-hp and a 395-hp one for the regular F-Pace and a 550-hp F-Pace SVR.
Best: BMW X1
The X1 is often referred to as an entry-level luxury SUV. It has all the features and creature comforts of its bigger, more expensive siblings... just in a smaller, more affordable package.
The 2023 model has a 241-hp engine now, a full 13 more than the last year, making the X1 fairly agile. If you need more performance and money is no object, you can go for the M-Sport package that includes things like adaptive suspension and aggressively bolstered seats.
Worst: BMW X6M Competition
You can either love or hate the design of the X6M. The rear portion of the roofline makes this car unlike any other on the market... but loving or hating that is purely subjective. What is objective, though, is the performance.
The X6M comes with a twin-turbo 4.4L V8 with 600 horses (YES, the same one from the M5 Sedan). With eight-speed automatic transmission and dynamic all-wheel drive system, there's nothing a willing driver cannot do in the X6M.
Best: Tesla Model X
While the novelty of an electric crossover has worn off lately, the Model X, especially its performance-oriented variant, the Plaid, is still relevant. For 2023, there are not a lot of new updates or changes, but this car is already pretty good.
The standard Model X comes with two electric motors, one on each axle, for a total power output of 670 horsepower and a 330-mile single-charge driving range. The Plaid is a madman with 1020 horsepower!
Worst: Range Rover Sport
Nothing defines British excess like the Range Rover, and if you want an SUV that has both form and function and then some luxury on top, you cannot beat the Range Rover (provided that you have $85,000).
The 2023 Range Rover only gets minor incremental updates over the last year's model, but none of them has managed to solve the reliability issues of the vehicle. However, if you can afford one of these, we assume a backup car is already following you all the time.
Best: BMW iX1
The best part about electric SUVs is that you can fit a lot of power even into a tiny chassis. This is the smallest electric SUV offering from BMW, and it comes with two motors, AWD and 308 horsepower.
That, however, is at the expense of range which has shrunk down to 266 miles, making the little BMW only good for zipping through the traffic or off-roading near the city. Still, it is a good little SUV to drive thanks to its lightweight and lots of power.
Worst: Kia EV6
Based on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the EV6 is Hyundai's take on a performance EV, and it holds its own against many competitors.
While you can scoff at the base rear-wheel drive model's 167 horsepower, the AWD can be optioned with a 320-hp or a 576-hp powertrain and a larger battery pack giving up to 230 miles of single-charge driving range. Not quite up there with the Teslas and Audis, but this Korean electric SUV is catching up.
Best: Aston Martin DBX
The DBX might not be as agile as the Vantage or as light as the DB11, but it can tow and go off-road... and those are the things you should be looking for in an SUV.
The DBX comes with a 697-hp turbocharged V8 in the stock configuration that is not only one of the sweetest-sounding engines of all time but also a very rev-happy and responsive one. New for 2023 is the DBX 707 model with 707 horsepower.
Best: Bentley Bentayga S
The Bentayga is one of the, if not the most practical and versatile luxury vehicles currently available from any brand. You can take it off-road, seat the whole family comfortably, and look extremely classy while you are at it.
Bentley is offering a decent V8, an economic plug-in hybrid V6, and a smooth W12 as the source of motivation in this SUV. All things considered, if you can come up with $270,000, this is the best family SUV to have.
Best: Audi SQ7
If you are in the market for an SUV that can balance adequate performance with opulent luxury at a comparatively affordable price, there is really no offering on the market right now that can beat the SQ7.
Under the hood is a nice German V8 making 500 horsepower, powering all four wheels for optimal on and off-road performance. And did we mention it has seven seats, all of them capable of being occupied by full-grown adults?
Worst: Porsche Cayenne
If you are looking for something with a rich racing heritage, timeless design, and insane performance, look no further. What Porsche is offering with the Cayenne is just too good to pass.
This SUV might look like an overgrown 911, but that is exactly what it is. It is a sports car at the core with some practicality added to the mix. You can get it with a turbo V6, a twin-turbo V6, or a twin-turbo V8 in addition to the hybrid model.
Best: Maserati Grecale
This piece of automotive art really redefines how good an SUV can look with a touch of Italian design. The Grecale is the second SUV in the brand's line-up, as part of their expansion into things beyond sports cars.
The Grecale is equipped with a 296-hp engine in the stock configuration, but the same 2.0L turbo I4 can be tuned up to put out 325 horses in the Modena trim. The interior of this SUV is a nice combination of upscale materials, tasteful styling, and high-tech features.
Worst: Lincoln Navigator
This Lincoln can carry a whole city block' worth of sweet, sweet American freedom in an agile and quick manner, thanks to the 440-hp V8 inside it. Lincoln has become a specialty brand lately, the specialty being luxury and heritage.
The flagship of Lincoln's lineup has received no major changes for this year other than the inclusion of a few new colors and the option to get the e-LSD with the trailer towing package.
Best: Cadillac Escalade-V
We've seen a lot of fine examples of things like British Excess, German Precision, and Italian Design, but none so far of American SUVs of ungodly proportions.
To get an idea of the size of this thing, just know that the supercharger in it has twice the displacement of a base-model Corolla. The 6.2L V8 is supercharged with a 2.7L supercharger to generate 683 horses, giving this apartment-on-wheels the agility of a sports car.
Worst: Audi e-Tron S
This Audi SUV is still figuring things out, or so it appears. While the shape of this thing is a cross between a Sportback and an SUV, the performance specs are not very brilliant either.
The e-Tron S comes with three motors, producing 496 combined horses, BUT the range is just 185 miles, making interstate trips very difficult, if not impossible, for most people. If you cannot spend $75,000 on a fancy grocery-getter with as much power as an F1 car, this one is probably not for you.
Best: Lexus LX 600
The LX600 is as luxurious as you can expect a Japanese SUV to be. Based on the same platform as the tried and tested Land Cruiser, this SUV is the most durable, dependable, and reliable vehicle you can get.
They say if you want to go on a cross-globe trip, take a Land Cruiser; if you want to go in luxury, take an LX600. The 2023 LX, like the LC300, comes with a twin-turbo V6 and no fancy hybrid or PHEV setup because it's only reliability and dependability that Lexus is focusing on here.
Best: Rivian R1S
The Rivian R1S has a three-row cabin, lots of power, and a premium feeling inside it, in addition to being blisteringly quick. The second model from the startup Rivian, this SUV leaves little more to be desired.
The standard format of the R1S comes with 600 horsepower and three motors, but the quad-motor 800-hp version is where all the fun is. I mean, just over three seconds for 0-60mph in an SUV the size of Kansas is impressive, to say the least.
Worst: Infiniti QX80
The QX80 could've been labeled best if not for the following two points: it has been around for more than a decade in the same shape and is pretty much the same as the far less expensive Nissan Armada.
However, the QX80 is a good SUV with all the little touches of luxury you can expect from a Japanese premium SUV. You can only get it with a 400-hp 5.7L V8 and a seven-speed automatic. The design shows the age because we are alive in a time when Camries have 10-speed transmissions.
Best: BMW XM
A lot of people had the view that the X7 is the most over-the-top SUV BMW can come up with, but that is no longer the case. That title will go to the XM once it comes out in 2023.
The 4.4L twin-turbo V8 in the XM teams up with an electric motor to put out a supercar-worthy 735 horsepower, making this BMW SUV a complete madman that can easily shred most sports cars to pieces in a drag race.
Best: Ferrari Purosangue
Ferrari (like everyone else) wants to get in on the SUV game, only they are doing it with a V12-powered beast of an SUV that only a select few would be able to buy.
So, if you get an invitation to buy one of these, you should go ahead with it. Hopefully, coming out by the end of 2023, this Italian beauty queen will surely belong more on race tracks than if it would, if at all, on the trail.
Best: Hyundai Palisade
With a nice cabin, a selection of tastefully selected materials, smooth (although a bit low) power delivery, and an attractive price, the Palisade is a pretty convincing offer for $45,000.
This SUV aims to deliver luxury features and performance at an affordable price point, and the delivery is not disappointing, to say the least. The only area of concern is the 3.8L V6 which only manages 291 horses, whereas 400 is the norm for SUVs in this class.
Best: Genesis GV60
The GV60 is Genesis' take on a luxury EV, and so far it looks good. Although, given the relatively low age of the brand and the fact that the GV60 has just come out this year, we can only speak so much of the reliability and durability of this SUV.
Buyers can select from a 314-hp or 429-hp drivetrain, and the claimed range is 235 miles on a single charge. How well this thing actually performs and what's the feel of the car like? Only time will tell.
Worst: Acura MDX
The MDX looks sleek, is excellent to drive, and has sufficient power for its size, but if you expect a comparable performance level, even in the most remote sense, to the legendary NSX, that's not true.
You can either get the MDX with a 290-hp V6 or a 355-hp one if you go for the S model. Performance aside, the interior and features are the same as any generic midsize luxury SUV.
Best: Honda Passport
The Passport is a silent player. It gets the job done and is even good at it, but it never grabs or asks for the attention it deserves. It appears Honda is happy keeping it that way.
Unlike most modern SUVs, the Passport has a high enough ground clearance (8.1 inches) to make it practical, but the most extreme off-roading applications have a solid engine and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. So it does tick all of the boxes.
Worst: Subaru Outback
To put it lightly, the Outback is one of the ugliest cars ever made, with one of the most underwhelming drivetrains ever to exist. While it looks like the designer is living a decade behind the rest of us, the engine is equally unimpressive.
Even if we can forgive the mere 260-hp output of the engine for an off-road vehicle, there's no turning a blind eye to the CVT, which is the only transmission option: IN THIS OFF-ROAD VEHICLE.
Best: Toyota Land Cruiser LC300
If you are given the choice of one car out of all that were made since cars became a thing, this one would be the best option. It is capable, dependable, reliable, durable, and any other word that ends in able.
The 2023 model year comes with a twin-turbocharged V6 and not a naturally aspirated V8, as was the case for the last 30+ years. While people comment that this would lead to reliability issues down the line, we are positive Toyota knows what they are doing.
Worst: Toyota RAV4
Suppose you need Toyota's reliability and durability but do not want to spend Land Cruiser money. In that case, the RAV4 is a good option, especially the Prime, if you want to invest a bit more upfront to get better gas mileage.
Motivation is provided by a 2.5L inline-4 gasoline engine coupled with an 8-speed automatic transmission that drives front wheels as standard, with an option to choose from a few AWD systems. It's not a fancy car, but it will get you from Point A to B, no matter if there's a desert between them.
Best: Lincoln Aviator
The Aviator is one of the most powerful, refined, and good-looking mid-size SUVs available on the North American market right now. The twin-turbocharged V6 with 400 horses is standard, which is a very good deal for $54,000.
If you need more power and nicer features, the Grand Touring offers an extra 100 hp from an electric motor and a plug-in hybrid system. The inside of the Aviator is also a nice place to be.
Best: Volvo XC40
If you don't like Hyundai's take on the subcompact SUV, this Swedish beauty might seduce you. The smallest in the line of XCs has gotten quite a few upgrades with the 2023 model.
The most important highlights include a couple of new powertrains, the B4 with 194 hp and the B5 with 247 hp, both featuring a 48-volt hybrid system. The exterior styling has also improved a lot with the futuristic DRL headlamps and a face-lifted front end.
Worst: Toyota Sequoia
Toyota had to make an SUV for the North American market, and what could be a better platform for that other than the Tundra? This large SUV has no particular complaints one could make, but it never got the same fame as the Land Cruiser.
The engine is the same twin-turbo V6 from the Land Cruiser and the LX600, but here it gets a bit of electric assistance in the form of a hybrid system.