The 6 Best Rated SUVs For 2021

2021 Genesis GV80

SUVs are more popular than ever before. They’re so popular that automakers have gone all-in on the body style, kicking subcompact and compact cars to the curb in favor of more SUVs. While some thought that SUVs were just a fad, they’re clearly here to stay.

It’s easy to see why SUVs are so popular. They offer drivers a commanding view of the road ahead, large cargo areas, and improved safety because of their larger size. Additionally, automakers have gone to great lengths to make SUVs comfortable, fast, quiet, and opulent. While a few SUVs continue to be powered by large, thirsty engines, automakers have also introduced efficient but powerful motors for SUVs.

With more options to choose from than ever before, settling on an SUV can seem impossible. We’ve chosen a few of our favorites in popular segments to help you narrow down your search.

Best Electric SUV: Audi e-tron

2019 Audi e-tron

Tesla may have the most desirable electric vehicles, but its SUVs aren’t benchmarks the way its sedans are. Sure, Teslas offer the most range of any EVs on sale, but other qualities are just as important as range. When looking at the complete package, the Audi e-tron shines as an excellent choice.

The e-tron is one of the few SUVs on the market that feels both current and futuristic. For early adopters that want the latest and greatest, few encompass the best of what the automotive world has to offer like the e-tron. The electric SUV comes with a 95kWh battery pack for a total of 222 miles of range. While the SUV’s range is competitive for the class, its performance is just average, but that changes with the introduction of the new e-tron S trim.

While the standard e-tron comes with two electric motors for a combined output of up to 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque with Boost mode activated, there’s a new e-tron S trim. That version has a tri-motor design for a total of 496 horsepower with Boost mode. The e-tron S can sprint to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.

Beyond the e-tron’s powertrain, the electric SUV comes with cutting-edge tech features. The company’s Virtual Cockpit system is standard, as are two touchscreens that sit in the middle of the dashboard. The SUV also brings high-end features like massaging front seats, an air quality system with a built-in fragrance, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and power soft-closing doors.

Best Off-Roading SUV: Jeep Wrangler

2021 Jeep Wrangler

With the return of the Ford Bronco, the Jeep Wrangler faces some serious competition for the first time in years. While the Bronco is more comfortable and practical than the Wrangler, when it comes to off-roading the Wrangler is a proven legend.

Jeep has greatly expanded the Wrangler’s appeal by offering a dizzying number of powertrains. From a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine up to a 6.4-liter V8, there’s literally something for everyone. There’s even something for consumers who are interested in saving the planet with the available plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe. Oh yeah, we can’t forget about the diesel that offers a stout 442 pound-feet of torque.

For dreadful terrain, there’s the mighty Rubicon trim with the Xtreme Recon package. The result is a Wrangler with 35-inch wheels, 12.9 inches of ground clearance, and a water-fording depth of 33.6 inches. On the more technical side of things, the Wrangler has a 47.4 degree approach angle, a 26.7 degree breaker angle, and a 40.4 departure angle. These figures go head-to-head with Broncos that have the available Sasquatch package.

If you’re not interested in having an SUV that will crawl up a building, the base Sport trim is deliciously old-school with manual windows, a manual gearbox, and a physical key. The Wrangler is one of the few analog SUVs on sale.

Best Compact SUV: Mazda CX-5

2021 Mazda CX-5
Joel Patel/The Manual

There’s no way around it — the Mazda CX-5 is a darn-good SUV. Sporty, upscale, good-looking, and high-tech, there’s not a lot the CX-5 gets wrong. When it comes to downsides, the base engine isn’t exactly powerful; nearly every other compact SUV offers more cargo space, and towing capacity is rated at a measly 2,000 pounds. Nothing’s perfect.

If you can look past these downfalls, the CX-5 will charm your soul with its gorgeous bodywork and exquisite interior. The CX-5 has a luxurious aura about itself without the luxurious price tag. There’s a certain attention to detail that you get with the CX-5 that its rivals simply don’t have. From the floor-hinged accelerator pedal and simple gauges to the genuine wood trim, Mazda’s engineers and designers have focused on things that others don’t pay much attention to.

Then, there’s the way the CX-5 performs. Despite having 187 horsepower on tap, the base engine feels more than powerful enough for daily use thanks to a responsive throttle pedal. If performance is what you’re after, the available turbocharged engine cranks out 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque on premium fuel. The CX-5 also delivers precise steering, composed handling, and strong brakes to make any backroad an enjoyable reprieve. When you’re on the way to church on Sunday, the CX-5 morphs into a quiet, refined cruiser. The ability to flow from one to the other is what makes the CX-5 so special.

Best Luxury SUV: Genesis GV80

2021 Genesis GV80

It’s taken a few years, but Genesis is a bona-fide luxury brand. Long gone are the days when people remember the Genesis name being used for a large sedan in Hyundai’s lineup. Instead, the South Korean automaker makes vehicles that give Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, Audi, and BMW cause for concern. And Genesis gives you more for less, which is something the others haven’t quite caught onto.

The midsize GV80 is Genesis’ first foray into the world of SUVs. The automaker certainly didn’t choose an easy segment for its first SUV, but the GV80 feels like it’s been on sale for years. It looks like a well-cut tuxedo, feels like a five-star hotel on the inside, and offers a scrumptious ride. Despite its large size, the GV80’s platform is solid, resulting in an SUV that offers car-like handling.

Genesis offers two engines with the GV80. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s rated at 300 horsepower. The turbo-four does a fine job of getting the GV80 down the road, but the available twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 is a better fit. It’s rated at 375 horsepower and delivers brisk acceleration. Add the powertrain on top of the GV80’s generous list of tech features and you’ve got a winning combination.

Best Midsize SUV: Kia Telluride

2022 Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride is a seriously good midsize SUV. It looks more expensive than it is and shuttles passengers around in luxury. Kia’s blend of packing the Telluride with popular features while keeping prices down has made its midsize SUV a standout choice. The midsize SUV is worth considering based on its handsome looks alone. Park this on your driveway to fill your neighbors with envy.

What really helps the Telluride stand out is its range-topping SX trim that feels abnormally luxurious for a vehicle from a mainstream brand. The SX trim comes with a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon audio system, leather upholstery, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, and ventilated front seats. Add the Prestige package, and you get heated and ventilated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and a head-up display. These are high-end features you won’t find on a lot of the Telluride’s rivals.

Then, there’s the way the Telluride rides. The midsize SUV isn’t the slightest bit sporty, but delivers a composed, comfortable ride, as long as you stick with the smaller 18-inch wheels. The available 20-inch wheels result in a harsh ride that makes the SUV feel jittery over rough roads. For those off-roading camping trips, the Telluride has 8 inches of ground clearance, a front skid plate, and available traction control modes.

Best Full-Size SUV: GMC Yukon/Yukon XL

2021 GMC Yukon Denali and AT4

Minivans continue to be the best options for large families, but we get it, they aren’t cool. Instead, if seating up to nine and an SUV body are priorities, then few are better choices than the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. GMC redesigned the Yukon family from the ground up for 2021, resulting in a cabin with three rows of spacious seating, three capable engines, and a smooth ride.

Beyond being able to seat up to nine, the Yukon offers a cavernous cargo area. The standard Yukon offers up to 122.9 cubic feet of cargo space, while the Yukon XL ups the ante with a total of 144.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Those are some of the best figures of any SUV on sale. Just think of all the Costco trips!

As one would expect, the Yukon comes with powerful engines. A 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 355 horsepower is standard, while a 6.2-liter V8 that’s rated at 420 horsepower is available. There’s also a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six engine that produces 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Another major positive with the Yukon is its new Air Ride Adaptive Suspension system that combines General Motors’ magnetic shocks with air springs for a serene ride, load leveling when towing, and increased ground clearance when off-roading.

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