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9 of the Best 3-Row SUVs, from Luxury to Affordable

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

After school sports? Car pool? Large family? A dog or two? Or do you just need extra cargo space for Costco runs and care-free road trips? If you find yourself toying with the idea of upgrading to a full-size SUV with third-row seating, you're in luck: We made a list of our top nine favorites, from luxury vehicles to beloved American brands.

VW Atlas

This might be called a "New American SUV" because it was designed and built by VW's American team in Chattanooga, TN. But it’s also designed to win back VW fans in the U.S. (it won Cars.com's "Best of 2018" award, FWIW), and the team took a studied approach to the Atlas, adding features they knew customers would love (like Apple CarPlay) and leaving some out (like a rear entertainment system) all in the service of keeping the price under $50,000 even when fully loaded.

What We Love:

  • Tons of head room and plenty of leg room, even in the third row
  • The center row is designed to fit three car seats
  • The center row slides and tilts forward even with a child car seat installed, making third row access easy (though not with a seat installed with a seatbelt)
  • Simple, elegant interior

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the VW Atlas

Nissan Armada

The Armada has a muscular look with a truck-like exterior and a military-chic appeal. Inside, the amenities and comforts go from good to great. While the Armada does fall on the luxury end of the third row SUV market (prices start at about $47,000 and range up to about $63,000), it can still be affordable if you don't add all the bells and whistles.

What We Love:

  • Great for families who love to road trip
  • Works for drivers who need space for passengers and cargo; the space behind the third row is large for an SUV
  • You can take it off-road: Armada is available in all-wheel or four-wheel drive
  • With 390 horsepower, the Armada can tow up to 8,300 pounds
  • Decent fuel economy at 14MPG city and 19MPG highway, but probably best for buyers for whom fuel economy is not a huge concern  

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the 2017 Nissan Armada

Infiniti QX80

If you're looking for the ultimate in SUV luxury—and a price to go with it (the Infiniti QX80 ranges from $66,000 to $91,000)—this guy is for you. As stylish on the inside as it is on the outside, this SUV has a 15-speaker Bose Premium audio system, premium leather and lovely wood finishes. The exterior features Infiniti’s distinct shape accented with side chrome air intake vents, LED headlights that wrap from front to side, a chrome grille and windows that are framed in chrome. 

This full-size SUV seats up to eight, thanks to two bucket seats in the middle row, a 60/40 split three-passenger row in the rear, and a center row bench seat option.

Need kid entertainment? The QX80 has seven-inch color monitors on the back of the front seat, which are large enough for kids all the way in the way-back to see. And the sound can be streamed via wireless headphones, just in case you can't handle listening to the Moana soundtrack over and over and over again.

What We Love:

  • The driving experience: a powerful 400-horsepower engine makes driving fun and confident
  • Luxury leather details, beautiful ash wood trim and suede ceiling headliner (on Limited Model)
  • Heated steering wheel and heated front and center seats
  • Good seating configuration for larger families
  • Easy to access third row
  • Comfortable ride with good lumbar support and reclining second and third row seats
  • Theater system with two screens and wireless headsets
  • Snow and tow drive modes enhance the all wheel-drive-capability 

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Infinti QX80 

Dodge Durango

With ample space and tons of cargo room, the Durango is definitely a practical and affordable SUV. The front grille, muscular styling and a truck-like appeal give it a bad-ass feel, but it’s available in all-wheel drive, meaning you have a good amount of control on challenging drives. Still, if you live in an area with a lot of troublesome roads, keep in mind that the Durango is not available in four-wheel drive, so it might not be ideal. As for the price? It ranges from $30,000 to about $63,000 for the souped-up SRT edition.

What We Love:

  • Works for families who need seating for six or seven passengers
  • Room for teens or taller backseat passengers
  • Easy to use touchscreen functions
  • Offers the height and space of a large SUV but the maneuverability of a midsize SUV
  • Offers top features, conveniences and safety at a good value

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Dodge Durango

GMC Yukon Denali

The Yukon Denali is a great option when you want top luxury details, but also need room for the whole family—plus a friend and even a pet. (It’s extremely spacious and has a full-size third row.) Denali designates GMC’s luxury label, and the Yukon Denali is top of the line, with prices running from about $66,000 to about $77,000. On many new vehicles, lane keep assist isn’t really necessary, but with a car as large as the Denali, it is really useful, particularly when driving narrow, busy highways. The huge mirrors and rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and forward collision alert all play a part in keeping you safe—and don’t forget about those huge mirrors, which are a must for visibility.

What We Love:

  • Wi-Fi hot spot
  • OnStar or easy to use navigation system
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Qi wireless charger
  • Automatic running boards
  • Tons of storage, including a huge place to stash a purse
  • Third row that is comfortable for adults
  • Fold flat seats

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Yukon Denali

Mazda CX-9

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a premium third row family crossover that gives you style and space. Mazda believes in the details when it comes to cars and the CX-9 is not lacking, from leather seats to head-up display to 12 BOSE speakers for optimum sound. And luckily, pricing is still affordable, starting at about $32,000 and topping out at about $45,000. As a crossover vehicle, the CX-9 has third row seating but is not a full-size SUV. And while it’s often tough to make a car with a third row look sleek and sporty when trying to accommodate both passengers and cargo, Mazda didn't seem to have any trouble at all.

The CX-9 features Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology that gets a little more oomph from a smaller engine, and overall, the vehicle is engineered to maximize driving dynamics and efficiency. We didn’t notice any difference between the SKYACTIV technology and a traditional V-6 engine; if anything it performed much smoother.

What We Love:

  • Distance recognition support: Once you reach 19 mph, the sensor will ensure you are at a safe distance. If you are too close, you will be alerted.
  • Seating for 7 passengers
  • Stability and traction control
  • Luxurious details throughout
  • Adaptive front lighting helps you see around corners at night; the headlights 'bend' with the steering

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Mazda CX-9

Ford Explorer

This has been the top-selling third row SUV since practically forever—look around, and you'll still see 10-, 15- and 20-year old models on the road. Recently, the design was updated for a more modern, refined look in the standard, Sport and Platinum models, with pricing to match: The starting price tag is about $33,000 and the Platinum model tops out at about $58,000.

The third row isn't as big as some of the others on the market, so this SUV may be better suited to a family of four who occasionally needs space for an extra passenger or two. The cargo space is stellar, though, and Ford has spent a lot of time adding smart touches like the always-getting-better Sync infotainment system and active safety features. 

What We Love:

  • The panoramic sunroof
  • Second row captain’s chairs
  • Household plug and two USB ports in the second row
  • Heated massaging front seats
  • Standard safety technology including adaptive cruise control and active park assist
  • Push button everything, including flip-and-fold center and third row seats

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Ford Explorer

Toyota Highlander

We can't say enough good things about this family SUV, which is roomy, capable and reliable—and available with just about every luxury you can imagine. It’s also the only three row SUV that comes in a hybrid. It also is available with all-wheel drive—a must in hilly or snowy climates—and it has center row captain’s chairs. Plus, you can put your handbag in the center console! Prices start at about $32,000 and top out just under $48,000; the hybrid model is priced from $37,000 to $48,000.

What We Love:

  • Plenty of cargo space, even behind the third row
  • Surround view camera eliminates the risk of *mistakes* even in a big car
  • That hybrid option! Who doesn't love saving money on gas?
  • Sliding second row seats that make getting in and out of the third row easy
  • That center console big enough for our handbag, so certainly it’s big enough for yours

Read ‘The Girls Guide to Cars’ full review of the Toyota Highlander

Honda Pilot

If you’re a Honda fan, you should definitely put this on your look list. Yes, it's big. But that just means it has lots of leg room and head room—perfect for taller kids or passengers. Priced from $31,000 to about $48,000 for the Elite edition, it includes many of Honda's best features and, like all Hondas, has a sterling reputation for reliability. The older boxy-shaped Pilot was redesigned for the 2016 model year and the new look is sublime—so elegant and much more refined.

What We Love:

  • The stylish touches inside and out
  • A roomy, comfortable third row with plenty of head room
  • A panoramic sunroof
  • Huge center console
  • Honda's active safety technology including blind spot monitors, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning
  • Lots of space = happy family

Read how one family spent a week in the Honda Pilot