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8 April 2021

Best large SUVs and 4x4 cars for 2021

Our best large SUVs and 4x4 cars are refined, efficient and practical – and a used best 4x4 needn’t cost you a fortune
Best 4x4 cars 1
Daljinder Nagra

Large SUVs and 4x4 cars are one of the most popular types of car in the UK. Favoured for their rugged good looks and the confidence they inspire, thanks to their raised driving position and perceived safety. 

The best large SUVs are also practical, with comfortable and spacious interiors. And – on most large models at least – you get four-wheel drive and the ability to venture off road. Few do, but beefy suspension and large tyres also do a good job of smoothing out rough roads and squashing speed bumps. 

The large SUV and 4x4 car class includes luxury models, as well as more affordable mainstream offerings. If you want a high-riding model that puts opulence before off-roading, we've separated luxury SUVs, both new and used, into their own category. This will help you find the best model for your needs.

But whatever class you want, you need to choose carefully. 

Our testing has found SUVs and 4x4 cars that are a nightmare to drive anywhere other than a muddy field. Long braking distances, wide turning circles and harsh suspension may be fine on a dirt track, but they become significant problems on a motorway or in town. 

You'll find our top recommendations for the best new and used large SUVs and 4x4 cars in the tables below. Plus, we reveal some models that aren't worth your money. Only Which? members can view our expert reviews in the tables below.

Log in now to see which large SUVs and 4x4s we recommend and get access to all of our independent, expert car reviews . If you're not already a member, join Which? to unlock our Best Buys and Don't Buys.

Best new large SUVs and 4x4 cars

Below our experts reveal the very best SUVs and 4x4s available to buy new, which have excelled in our rigorous lab and road tests.

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78%
Best Buy
£69495.00
Reviewed

This large SUV proves you can have it all - a practical family car that's well made, nice to drive and gets around the limitations of battery zero-emissions cars. It's currently being held back by a lack of a refuelling infrastructure, but in itself it’s a deserved Which? Best Buy.

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76%
Best Buy
£35771.00
Reviewed

This SUV was already worth consideration in pure petrol form, but the addition of a powerful – and potentially very economical – plug-in hybrid drivetrain has sealed the deal for a Best Buy rating. Not only is it as smooth and punchy to drive, it’s also safe, extremely spacious and has a reasonable towing capacity for a plug-in model.

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75%
Best Buy
£29909.00
Reviewed

The latest version of this popular model ditches diesel altogether and is available solely as a petrol hybrid. That’s no bad thing at all. Not only is it quiet and effortless to drive, it’s also proved very economical, with improved fuel consumption on the motorway – typically a weakness for hybrid models. Only a clunky infotainment system lets it down slightly.

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74%
Best Buy
£65720.00
Reviewed

This brand's first attempt at an all-electric SUV has been a success. This five-seater is as comfortable, opulent and as tech laden as its combustion-powered stablemates, but boasts improved refinement and zero tailpipe emissions.

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73%
Best Buy
£37108.00
Reviewed

If you're in the market for a full-size seven-seat SUV, this model has a lot to offer. It's extremely spacious for passengers and luggage, very well equipped and comfortable to drive. The grumbles we have are minor. This is a top SUV.

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72%
£56056.00
Reviewed

It may be the brand's first all-electric offering, but this model scores very highly thanks to its refined cabin and driving experience, and superb performance. It's also spacious and relatively easy to drive for a such a large car.

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70%
Best Buy
£24860.00
Reviewed

This Best Buy model doesn’t just perform well in our tests; those who’ve bought it are very happy with their purchase, too. Delivering no-nonsense ease of use and generous amounts of passenger and luggage space, it hits the high notes for a large SUV. Owners also appreciate how easy it is to drive and its decent fuel economy.

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70%
Best Buy
£28833.00
Reviewed

Perhaps for the first time, we've found the hybrid is better than the petrol-only version of the same car - and not just for fuel reasons. At its best, this SUV is quiet, refined and incredibly easy to drive. Despite the space sacrificed for the batteries, this car has a huge amount of passenger and boot space. It's fuel efficiency is slightly disappointing, but it nearly matches the official figure.

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Best new luxury large SUVs and 4x4s

Luxury SUVs offer the premium interior and comfort traditionally associated with high-end saloon cars, but with greater ease of access, practicality and traction/off-road ability.

So if you're looking for something more premium, we've got you covered - here are the best high-end models on the market, as backed up by our independent lab and road tests. 

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77%
Best Buy
£46913.00
Reviewed

The epitome of the sports SUV, it's a dynamic masterclass and a very desirable SUV indeed. It drives, stops and corners with an agility difficult to fathom in a fairly large 4x4. It’s also reasonably practical, despite only adequate rear passenger space. If you want an SUV that offers a downright enjoyable driving experience, look no further.

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77%
Best Buy
£58869.00
Reviewed

This impressive luxury SUV has only been improved by the addition of PHEV technology. There's potential for very low running costs - not something you'd normally associate with a full-fat four-wheel-drive car. Its impressive ride comfort, tech laden cabin and strong safety credentials ensure its position as a Best Buy model.

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75%
Best Buy
£63155.00
Reviewed

PHEV technology has only improved the already superb cabin refinement and tranquility of this large luxury SUV. It will take five passengers and their luggage in absolute comfort and it's quite fun to drive, too. The potential for very low running costs - not something you can usually say of a full-fat off roader - seals the deal as a Best Buy model.

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74%
Best Buy
£65720.00
Reviewed

This brand's first attempt at an all-electric SUV has been a success. This five-seater is as comfortable, opulent and as tech laden as its combustion-powered stablemates, but boasts improved refinement and zero tailpipe emissions.

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Best used large SUVs and 4x4s

Based on the results of our annual Which? Car Survey,  cars aged 3-8 years old in the medium/large SUV car class are the most likely to break down. 

  • Just over 6% of owners in our survey had to call out a recovery service in the year before the survey - this isn't great, even for older cars. 
  • By comparison, just over 3% of city cars aged 3-8 years old broke down. 

This is partly because SUVs used to favour diesel engines - this is the least reliable fuel type, according to our survey. 

However, you can be confident we only recommend cars that are reliable. In our survey, we not only ask motorists about breakdowns, but also how many issues they've had, what they were and how much time the car spent off the road, if at all. With the data we collect we can then determine how reliable a model of car is in its first three years and in years three to eight of its life.

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70%
Best Buy
£4017.00
Reviewed

This 4x4 is well suited to family life, and it's pretty frugal, too, though it's not an all-out off-roader. One of its main attractions is the sheer space inside, and it's one of the easiest 4x4s to drive, with clear controls and an excellent driving position. However, rear visibility and parking can be awkward.

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69%
Best Buy
£9588.00
Reviewed

This SUV exhibits its maker’s strengths: it’s exceedingly robust and reliable, efficient and practical, and newer models will still be under warranty. The flip side is that it’s very dull to drive and rolls about a lot in the corners.

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Best used luxury large SUVs and 4x4s

Make a saving on a premium model by buying used - below, we reveal the very best models to choose.

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77%
Best Buy
£8537.00
Reviewed

What it lacks in choice of engines, this SUV makes up for with superior build-quality and comfort, and plenty of space for people and luggage. Just don’t expect it to mud-plug like a real off-roader.

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75%
Best Buy
£10204.00
Reviewed

Plenty of space inside and solid build quality mark this large SUV as a true premium player. Clean design and lots of technology further boost appeal. The comfortable interior means long journeys are never a chore. For a big SUV, it's very easy to drive, if a little dull, and the engines are very capable.

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74%
Best Buy
£19271.00
Reviewed

This large SUV drives fantastically well while providing a good level of ride comfort. It has a range of powerful engines, it's extremely spacious for five occupants, and even has a seven-seat option. It's an outstanding example of the luxury large SUV done well, and is a deserved Which? Best Buy.

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73%
Best Buy
£7621.00
Reviewed

One of the best on-road 4x4s, with very sure-footed handling, although the ride can get a bit jittery on bad road surfaces. The diesel engines are sweet, refined and powerful, and the six-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly. It’s also comfortable and roomy, making it a good choice if you’re buying a family car. It’s got an attractive interior, too.

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73%
Best Buy
£12156.00
Reviewed

Its styling may have been controversial but there was no doubting the substance under the metalwork. This model introduced us to the idea of a coupe SUV, and backed its sporty styling with an engaging driving experience, a comfortable ride and refined cabin.

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Large SUVs and 4x4 cars to avoid

Beefy SUVs and 4x4s have a certain image to uphold. They look strong and durable - surely a car that can barrel across frozen tundra and rutted fields won’t break down? 

Sadly not. Our survey has found high-profile 4x4 cars that regularly suffer from brake and electrical faults, leading to multiple breakdowns and garage visits – hardly expected of a rugged off-roader.

There’s also the matter of fuel consumption. No one is expecting a hulking SUV or 4x4 to be super efficient, but people’s expectations aren’t an excuse to produce cars that do less than 20 miles to the gallon. We’ve tested hybrid SUVs that achieve more than 40mpg, so it’s not as if it can’t be done.

Below, we’ve rounded up three unreliable or gas-guzzling 4x4s that you should avoid.

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51%
£14851.00
Reviewed

This high-riding model caused a stir when it was launched back in 2011. Buyers loved its striking styling, high-quality cabin and more modest dimensions compared with the brand’s larger models. However, with iffy reliability, limited practicality for what is still a large car, and some ageing technology, owners ranked this vehicle as the least satisfying luxury car overall.

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49%
£50682.00
Reviewed

Stunning off-road performance counts for nothing when poor reliability means you'll be spending more time on a garage ramp than forging through the wilderness. It’s also quite thirsty.

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46%
£30627.00
Reviewed

Poor brand-level reliability doesn't inspire confidence and the lack of good all-round visibility doesn't make it the easiest car in the world to drive. It's not the most practical SUV in the world either thanks to an average sized boot. We'd recommend looking elsewhere.

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How to buy the best large SUV or 4x4 car

From whether to buy an electric, hybrid, diesel or petrol SUV, to how to check for enough boot space for your luggage and shopping. We tell you what you need to know in order to buy the best large SUV or 4x4 car for your needs.

The large SUV and 4x4 car class includes luxury models, such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX and Range Rover. Plus more affordable mainstream offerings, including the Honda CR-V, Skoda Kodiaq and Toyota RAV4.

But popularity is no guarantee that a large SUV will be good to drive on the road or the best SUV for your money.

Should you buy an SUV or a car?

If you live on a farm, the answer is probably SUV. A large off-roader with four-wheel drive and high ground clearance is recommended if you need to cross muddy fields, or regularly travel across difficult terrain or in particularly adverse weather.

However, if your driving life largely consists of commuting or school runs, and you simply want four-wheel drive for added security in slippery conditions, you can save money by opting for another car class.

Selected medium and large car models are available with four-wheel drive and muscular diesel engines for improved traction and towing ability, as well as mildly raised ground clearance. They retain the benefits of a regular car - namely being more fun to drive and easier to manoeuvre - but will go further off the beaten track, without eating parking spaces for breakfast.

Hybrid, diesel or petrol SUV?

Most large SUVs sold in the UK are diesel, as they normally offer more reasonable fuel economy over the big petrol engines needed to power these large cars.

Modern diesels are generally very refined and offer plenty of torque (pulling power) – which is great for towing. Our petrol vs diesel calculator will help you work out the relative costs of petrol and diesel engines.

There's also a trend towards large hybrid SUVs fitted with electric motors as well as conventional engines. These often claim to have better fuel consumption and emissions than diesels, although in reality this will depend largely on the type of driving you do. 

In our tests, both conventional self-charging hybrids (which charge using energy recuperation, such as from the brakes, rather than needing to be plugged in) and plug-in hybrid SUVs often outperform comparable petrol or diesel models in stop-start city driving. This is where hybrid systems are at their most effective. 

However, this advantage is often lost in higher-speed driving, such as on the motorway.  

If you opt for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), make sure you can regularly charge it. By not doing so, you risk being stung with expensive fuel bills. In our tests, we’ve seen a PHEV model’s fuel economy halve when it’s out of charge as its engine needs to work harder to keep the weight from the heavy battery and combustion engine rolling. 

Some manufacturers are also adding mild hybrid technology to their existing petrol and diesel engines, and claiming improved fuel economy and emissions. However, we've seen in our tests that they don't always help. To make sure you'll get any benefit, you'll need to check our independent fuel consumption figures in our car reviews.  

Electric large SUVs 

While there's a potential for lower running costs if you buy an electric large SUV over petrol and diesel, the size of the car will still have an effect. Running costs for large SUVs could be up to 70% higher than with a smaller model, because of the SUVs greater electricity consumption. 

The old rules generally apply: the heavier and more powerful a car, the more it's likely to cost to run, whatever fuel you're using. 

Most electric large SUVs also sit in the luxury market, but we expect to see that change in the run-up to the 2030 ban on all new petrol/diesel cars, and the 2035 ban on hybrids. 

See our best electric cars.

Large SUVs boot space

Not all large SUVs are the practical workhorses you might imagine. Having lots of four-wheel-drive kit under the car's floor can lead to compromised interior space. Boot space, in particular, can be quite limited. And the fact SUVs sit so high off the ground can make them difficult to get in and out of.

On the other hand, some large SUVs are genuine substitutes for an MPV. Off-roaders available with seven seats include the Audi Q7, BMW X7, Hyundai Santa Fe,  Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq.

Luxury SUVs as an alternative to premium saloons

The days of ultra-basic off-roaders that you could hose out after a day's work are all but over. Modern large SUVs are much more like conventional family cars, with premium models encroaching into the space of the traditional luxury limousine.

The Range Rover family of cars sums this category up well. Each model has serious off-road hardware, but it’s their styling, opulence and tidy road manners that have seen them become a hit with buyers.

In this regard, choosing the right options is important. Large alloy wheels and styling upgrades are less useful than advanced driver aids, but will appeal to style-conscious buyers when the time comes to sell.

Off-road SUVs and 4x4 cars compared

If you’re serious about going where few cars have gone before, then there's no real substitute for a large SUV. However, while most talk the talk, you need to ensure it has the right off-road hardware.

The main thing to consider is a low-range gearbox, which allows the car to crawl very slowly, and minimises the risk of wheel-spin. Locking differentials (which force two wheels on the same axle to move in unison) are also useful for not getting stuck.

One of the easiest ways of improving a car’s off-road ability is to fit it with proper all-terrain tyres. The sporty road tyres fitted as standard to most models might benefit handling on tarmac, but are a serious limitation in the rough stuff.

‘Proper’ off-road models to consider include the Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruiser.

If you could do without a proper mud plugger, some luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5 can also be specified with 'off-road packs'. This includes kit like underbody protection to boost off-road ability.

Traditional 4x4s vs newer 4x2s

There's an increasing trend towards off-road-style cars that only have two-wheel drive. It's not only crossover models that can be bought with front-wheel drive; some more traditional-style 4x4s are available as 4x2s. 

Of course, some benefits of a 4x4 remain in two-wheel-drive SUVs, including the high seating position and ground clearance. But you won't benefit from improved traction. On the other hand, the price is usually lower and fuel economy is often significantly better.

Four-wheel-drive vs all-wheel drive

There's also all-wheel drive (AWD) rather than 'permanent' four-wheel drive. This means power will only go to the second axle (either front or rear, depending on the model) when the car decides it's needed - when detecting a loss of grip, for instance. In normal operation, such cars are two-wheel drive. 

An AWD model should provide greater traction over wet grass or gravel, but it's not properly for off-road. This is slightly complicated as the terms are used interchangeably, even by manufacturers, and with modern cars there's no hard and fast rule as to what sort of car would have what. Generally, however, AWD cars run in a two-wheel-drive configuration on the road to save fuel and for better handling. They then send power to the additional axle when required, so traction on slippery or loose surfaces is improved. This applies to the latest crossovers, too. 

Increasingly, SUV models that aren’t specifically designed for off-road use will have AWD, as it has less of an impact on fuel consumption.

Four-wheel drive (or 4x4) is traditionally used in larger off roaders, and used to send power to all four wheels equally. They also can come with locking differentials and low-range gearboxes for great off-road prowess.

Best large SUVs and 4x4 cars for road travel

Since you'll probably be spending most of your time on tarmac, it's important to consider how your off-roader behaves on the road. 

Some are wider than two metres, so it will be tricky parking at the supermarket and you won't be able to drive through a 6ft 6in width restriction. It's also important to remember that a large, heavy SUV is never going to handle amazingly well or be the most economical - but there’s a big difference between the best and worst. 

Our comprehensive reviews cover important dynamic traits such as braking, suspension and how cars behave in emergency manoeuvres - particularly important in high-sided vehicles such as SUVs.

See all of our large SUV and 4x4 car reviews

We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.

Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car that we test.

Testing in controlled lab conditions means that the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs

And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the annual Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.

To take the guesswork out of choosing your next car, join Which? and you’ll receive access to all our expert reviews and advice.


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