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The Best Full-Sized SUVs in 2021

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Choosing the 5 best full-sized SUVs on the 2021 market wasn’t easy but we’ve found a selection sure to suit anyone’s intentions on or off-road.

Ticking All The Boxes

2021 GMC Yukon Denali - media.gmc.com
2021 GMC Yukon Denali - media.gmc.com

From the moment that the American people got their hands on the original Ford Explorer, the SUV craze has grown exponentially. What once was one lone vehicle has blossomed into a vast sea of SUVs as far as the eye can see. At the top of that mountain, you’ll find the subject of our piece today, full-sized SUVs in 2021 that can carry a small platoon and tow their weekend warrior toys behind them with ease. It’s versatility that has made the SUV the main means of conveyance we see on the road today. Hauling people and things in comfort, style, and even sometimes speed.

The dilemma of choice then presents itself to anyone in the market for such a beast of burden. To that end, we’ve brought together 5 of the brightest and best full-sized SUVs available in 2021 at your local dealership. Each has its own characteristics that set it apart from the others in the group and ultimately ahead of the rest of the field that may feature similar facets of design or intention. Let’s talk about what separates them.

Horses For Courses

Family packing their SUV
Family packing their SUV

Selecting something like your favorite dish is a personal inquiry that results in an answer that satisfies things that are distinctly you, and when it comes to choosing the best full-sized SUV in 2021, the method of selection isn’t much different. Here, we’ll show you 5 different flavors of larger SUV. Perhaps your goal is to provide the most robust and reliable large SUV money can buy with none of the fuss. Still, others will be looking for a killer deal that makes them feel like they got the better of the dealer every time they get into their chariot.

Two of our selections are tech-forward barges that are sure to impress any passenger, but each has a twist that proves to be the fork in the road between them. Finally, we have one more that proves to be perhaps the best outright performer for those where the price isn’t a major factor. Each is at the top of their game and ultimately all of them are exceptional vehicles to pilot. The question really is which tastes best on your pallet.

Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride - kiamedia.com
2021 Kia Telluride - kiamedia.com

Kia has stepped up its game in recent years and the Telluride is the next leap forward for the small Korean manufacturer. Built in cooperation with Hyundai who uses much of the same architecture for the Palisade, the Telluride is the king of balling on a budget.

Just take a look at the truly dashing design that harkens to larger SUVs that cost two or three times as much as this Korean family hauler, which starts at just $31,990. It’s nothing like what we would’ve expected from Kia just a decade ago. It’s clean, elegant, and handsome, even attractive. Inside things only get better thanks to quality materials and high-end features like heated and ventilated seats that can even be optioned in the back. The engine makes nearly 300 horsepower and feeds it through a reliable and smooth 8-speed transmission.

2021 Kia Telluride - kiamedia.com
2021 Kia Telluride - kiamedia.com

With 8 inches of ground clearance, available all-wheel-drive throughout the lineup, self-leveling rear suspension, and a 5,000 lb towing capacity, it checks all the boxes when it comes to actual utility as well. Finally, it might not be the best of the 2021 full-sized SUV bunch when it comes to miles per gallon, but it’s still close enough to overtake everything else in its class thanks to a much more well-rounded package. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly SUV that will make your neighbors and passengers think you spent more, this is the king of the hill.

Land Rover Defender

2021 Land Rover Defender - media.landrover.com
2021 Land Rover Defender - media.landrover.com

Over the course of the last 15 years or so, Land Rover has gone from a company on the brink of failure to one that is experiencing a serious resurgence. Not a small part of that is that reliability for the brand has skyrocketed far out of the deep well it had dug itself in the early 2000s. The new Defender is Land Rover’s way of saying “We’re back for good” and we love everything about it.

Nothing on this list drips with the cool rugged composure or the historic significance of the new Defender. When it comes to pricing, the Defender is accessible, but can still be optioned to the moon if that’s your cup of tea. It can be a seriously stripped-down off-road monster or you can put it in a suit of luxury options and make it more composed on the road than most of the other great SUVs here. Either way, it never loses that very capable DNA that sets it apart.

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2021 Land Rover Defender - media.landrover.com
2021 Land Rover Defender - media.landrover.com

Think of the Defender as the luxury Jeep Wrangler that has never really existed. It’s got more ground clearance and can wade through deeper water than Wrangler too. Inside you’ll find a bevy of on and off-road technology that makes each drive more enjoyable, like the most advanced touchscreen interface ever in a Land Rover. There’s so much to love about the Defender and, much like its historic predecessor, this one is sure to hold its value well too.

GMC Yukon Denali XL

2021 GMC Yukon Denali XL - media.gmc.com
2021 GMC Yukon Denali XL - media.gmc.com

Easily the largest of the 2021 SUVs on our list, the GMC Yukon Denali XL is basically everything you could ask it to be. It’s exceptionally comfortable and spacious inside. It’s on a truck frame, so towing your weekend toys or camper is no big deal. It’s handsome and modern both inside and out. It’s powered by a motor not very dissimilar to the one found in the Corvette and makes 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.

On the highway, this monster still gets 22 mpg and provides all the amenities you might want from your large family luxo-cruiser like wifi, premium audio, and multiple climate control zones. It’s quiet and incredibly smooth, too. For the money($70,000), you can’t get a better combination of space, power, luxury, and technology from an American company. The Ford Explorer MAX is close in some respects, but doesn’t dominate the game in any of them, which is why the Yukon Denali XL continues to take the crown.

Toyota Land Cruiser

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com

If anything here has a better record of reliability combined with family-hauling capability, we certainly couldn’t tell you what it is. The Land Cruiser is quite simply one of the best larger SUVs in the history of the segment and we don’t say that lightly. It’s the most expensive of the vehicles here and it’s still worthy because not only will it hold its value unlike anything else here, it’ll likely remain the most reliable vehicle on this list a decade or more from now.

That ability to maintain its value is precisely why we’d choose it over the far less pricey Sequoia too. It helps as well that the Land Cruiser is now available with a third row and has a far more opulent interior than the lesser of Toyotas full-sized SUVs. It has four-zone climate control, wireless charging, and dramatically higher quality materials throughout the vehicle.

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - toyota.com

The off-road prowess of the Land Cruiser means that unlike the vast majority of SUVs that purport to be capable outside of a mall parking lot with nothing to back it up, this one can actually get you and your family deeper into the wilderness, and then back out with ease.

Volvo XC90

2021 Volvo XC90 - carsforsale.com
2021 Volvo XC90 - carsforsale.com

When it comes to SUVs that are pushing the boundaries in terms of both safety and technology, few come close to what Volvo has been able to accomplish when it comes to the XC90. We’ll consider just three major facets of the package, the engine, the safety features, and the design.

Powering the XC90 is a 2.0-liter engine that is not only turbocharged and supercharged but then it’s also mated to electric motors to produce no less than 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. That much power from such an efficient powertrain allows the XC90 to feel more than adequate when it comes to power, but also to get 30mpg on the highway with 18 miles of electric-only range.

2021 Volvo XC90 - carsforsale.com
2021 Volvo XC90 - carsforsale.com

When it comes to safety Volvo is perhaps the most recognized brand in the world and the XC90 is largely to blame for that fame. In 2018, officials from the UK noted that since they began recording in 2002, no driver or passenger of an XC90 had died in an automobile accident. It’s no wonder either when you consider that a 2020 model comes standard with no less than 24 different safety features, like “cross-traffic alert w/autobrake”, “roll stability control”, and “run-off road mitigation”.

Finally, drink in the subtle, but ultra-modern design details of both the interior and exterior of the XC90. Unlike any other SUV on the road today, this family hauler is futuristic without being flashy. It’s ergonomically laid out and easy to understand and use. It’s incredibly comfortable and has all the premium features you’d expect from a vehicle of this class without costing a fortune either. The XC90 starts at just $49,000.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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