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A red 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is shown from the front on a dirt trail.

5 SUVS Worth Exploring in 2023

In the increasingly crowded SUV sector, it can often be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Today’s SUVs run the gamut from sporty, stylish compact options to hulking family haulers, off-road beasts, and luxurious, refined rides, with each model offering its own long list of pros and cons. Still, some models seem to rise to the top, earning praise from drivers and critics alike and making a name for themselves in this highly competitive corner of the market. Some models speak for themselves, with sales figures to back up their popularity, while others are under-the-radar sleeper picks that offer real value for drivers who are willing to take a chance on a lesser-known model.

In a bid to make things a little easier for the average buyer, we’ve gathered our best buys: a 2023 guide to some of our favorite models into one handy list. As always, value is a key factor here, so all the models listed below should be well within the reach of the average driver with a starting MSRP of between $25,000 and $75,000. This price range might exclude some of the more established luxury brands, but as you’ll see, luxury is about a lot more than the badge stamped onto the grille.

#1: The Kia Telluride

With a stylish design, a comfortable cabin, and a generous list of standard features, the Kia Telluride is one of the best values in the midsize category. The underrated SUV has been a critical favorite since its debut in 2020, earning three straight 10 Best awards from Car and Driver while outshining the competition in terms of both price and capability.

Starting at just $35,690, the 2023 model is no exception, delivering a host of thoughtful features that wouldn’t be out of place in a much pricier SUV. For example, the 2023 Telluride not only gets a makeover that includes a new grille, headlamps, and front bumper, it’s also loaded with a full suite of new technology, including a 12.3-inch infotainment display, fully digital instrument panel as well as navigation and onboard Wi-Fi standard.

While these features can commonly be found on high-end SUVs like the BMW iX and Mercedes-Benz GLS-class, they’re certainly not the standard at the Telluride’s price point, making Kia’s three-row SUV a true bargain in its class. The SUV also excels when it comes to interior space, providing seating for eight with a second-row bench seat or seven with the optional captain’s chairs. The Telluride is seven inches longer than its stablemate, the seven-passenger Kia Sorento, allowing riders to truly stretch out and enjoy the ride while leaving plenty of room for luggage and other cargo.

The Telluride holds its own when it comes to power, with a V6 engine producing some 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Those looking to maximize the SUV’s utility factor can opt for the rugged X-Line and X-Pro trims, which come standard with all-wheel drive, improved approach and departure angles, and a maximum towing capacity of 5,500 pounds.

#2: The Toyota Highlander

For those seeking a highly capable three-row family SUV that won’t break the bank, the 2023 Toyota Highlander is worth a test drive. The Toyota’s value is two-fold: first off, it’s affordable off the bat with an MSRP of just $36,420, and secondly, the optional hybrid powertrain will keep you insulated from the never-ending price hikes at the pump. The hybrid version of Toyota’s award-winning SUV boasts an impressive 36 MPG combined, which blows the rest of the three-row SUV segment out of the water when it comes to pure efficiency. While that type of fuel economy does mean a little less power under the hood, it’s not quite as much as one might think, with the hybrid model achieving a zero-to-60 time of 7.3 seconds in testing. Regardless, it’s a fair trade-off when one considers the potential fuel savings.

Going into the 2023 model year, Toyota replaced the standard V6 with a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Capable of producing some 265 horsepower, the Highlander might not be the most powerful SUV in the three-row segment, but it outshines the competition with a combined 25 MPG. Toyota is keeping pace in the infotainment arms race as well, offering a 12.3-inch infotainment display and making the matching 12.2-inch digital gauge cluster a standard feature on the Limited and Platinum trims. A hands-free power liftgate offers a nice touch of convenience on the XLE and XSE models, while the upper trims see the addition of power-folding exterior mirrors.

As a perennial top safety pick by the IIHS, Toyota has long made safety a focus when it comes to the Highlander. This continues into 2023 with a standard suite of driver-assistance features that include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam headlamps.

A blue 2023 Honda CR-V is shown from the rear at an angle.

#3: The Honda CR-V

There’s no denying the CR-V’s impressive track record, which makes the 2023 version hard to ignore. Honda’s compact SUV has been the country’s best-selling model for the last 25 years, proving itself time and time again over five generations. 2023 sees the introduction of the new sixth-gen CR-V, which brings a host of new features, styling cues, and even an advanced hybrid-electric powertrain into the mix.

The CR-V manages to outpace the competition when it comes to three of the most vital metrics in the ultra-competitive SUV class: performance, comfort, and fuel economy. The 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine might not seem like much on the surface, but thanks to some thoughtful engineering, that 190 horsepower goes a long way when it comes to having a little fun behind the wheel. Drivers aren’t typically drawn to the SUV class for its performance, but Toyota has returned the base engine for 2023, injecting just enough excitement to make those trips to the grocery store seem a little less mundane. Thankfully this doesn’t come at the cost of efficiency, with the CR-V posting an impressive fuel economy rating of 30 MPG combined.

Drivers seeking a little more power have the hybrid Sport and Sport Touring trims to choose from, which up the engine to a 2.0-liter paired with two electric motors in order to deliver 204 horsepower. This hybrid powertrain ups the SUV’s MPG stats considerably, with the front-wheel drive Sport Hybrid trim offering 40 MPG combined. The Sport Hybrid is our pick for the best of the bunch, with the efficient powertrain––as well as black exterior accents, 18-inch black wheels, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel––seeming like quite the bargain at $32,450.

The sixth-generation CR-V is a standout when it comes to design, with a refreshed interior that lends the longstanding SUV a decidedly modern look. This includes a dashboard honeycomb insert, digital gauge cluster, redesigned front seats, a larger center console compartment, and reclining back seats that improve the CR-V’s legroom by more than a half-inch when compared to the fifth-generation model. 39.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row leaves plenty of room for cargo.

#4: The Ford Bronco

Our list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning at least one off-road-focused model, and the 2023 Ford Bronco is the obvious pick. While more and more automakers have introduced lighter-duty “soft-roaders” in recent years, Ford has bucked the trend, reviving the storied Bronco nameplate to grace its new four-wheel drive off-road beast. It’s equal parts stylish and capable, giving longtime fans of brands like Jeep a new option when it comes to exploring the road less traveled.

Available in both two and four-door body styles, the Bronco is nothing if not customizable with soft-top and hardtop options, removable body panels, and ten different trims that run the gamut in terms of performance and off-road capability. For those looking for a daily driver that can still kick up a little dirt on the weekends, there’s the Base model, which, at $32,295, is an affordable entry into the Bronco lifestyle. For those seeking to relive the Bronco’s 1960’s glory days, the Bronco Heritage Edition includes the iconic white roof, grille, and vintage-inspired wheels. New for 2023, the Heritage Edition also gets a generous complement of off-road hardware with an upgraded 300-horsepower engine and your choice of a seven-speed manual or available ten-speed automatic transmission.

The Bronco Wildtrak steps it up another level, featuring 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels and giant 35-inch mud-terrain tires. Finally, for those looking to push the envelope into supertruck territory, there’s the Bronco Raptor. While the top trim is more than twice as expensive as the Base model, it more than lives up to the price tag with 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that delivers 418 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. Built with high-speed off-roading and vertigo-inducing rock-climbing in mind, the Bronco Raptor pulls out all the stops when it comes to performance.

While Ford is exploring some well-traveled territory with the Bronco, it still manages to introduce a few novel innovations that really help to set the SUV apart. For example, the Bronco’s exterior mirrors are mounted onto the windshield rather than the doors so that when you decide to pop the doors off, you won’t have to sacrifice visibility and safety as part of the bargain. Another thoroughly modern touch is the inclusion of a built-in dashboard rack which allows drivers to mount smartphones and GoPros for on-the-go recording. It might not seem like much, but it’s these kinds of touches that help set the Bronco apart in the competitive off-road segment.

A red 2023 Ford Bronco Wildtrak is shown from the front while driving off-road.

#5: The Hyundai Palisade

A close cousin of the Kia Telluride, the Hyundai Palisade offers a more upscale alternative to many of the other midsize SUVs on the market. Similar to the Telluride, it punches well above its weight when it comes to high-end features, with a cabin that outshines much of the competition when it comes to both design and innovation. Past Palisade models have earned recognition for their refined approach, and the 2023 model is no different. Hyundai has updated the SUV’s instrument panel for the new model year, integrating a new high-resolution 12.3-inch display along with a redesigned steering wheel and new options when it comes to upholstery. Other notable additions include heated third-row seats, a massaging driver’s seat, and a Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as trims like the XRT, which bring 20-inch wheels, blacked-out exterior details, and other aggressive design cues into the mix.

The midsize Palisade might be more focused on comfort than power and performance but can still hold its own when it comes to the “utility” part of the SUV. The Palisade is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with a trailer hitch, and the all-wheel drive SEL model offers some surprisingly impressive acceleration with a zero-to-60 time of just 6.9 seconds. Of course, if there’s one place the Palisade excels, it’s as a spacious family hauler. With seating for eight in the SE and SEL trims or seven with the inclusion of second-row captain’s chairs, the Palisade makes the most of its cabin with power-folding second and third-row seats as well as a handy button that allows for easier access to the third row. The Palisade can accommodate 45.8 cubic feet of storage with the second row folded and as much as 86.4 cubic feet with all the seats stowed away. A clever deployment of cubbies leaves plenty of room for storage, and the SUV even includes a handy space under the load floor that’s perfect for wet or muddy gear.

Further improving its profile as a reliable family vehicle, the 2023 Palisade comes standard with a generous raft of standard safety features. These include automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving modes. A generous Hyundai warranty will keep drivers’ minds at ease, with 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage that’s among the best in the business, not to mention new, complimentary scheduled maintenance.

These SUVs Are Worth Your Consideration in 2023

With established brands building on past success and newly redesigned models carving out a name for themselves, it’s a great time to explore what today’s SUVs have to offer. The rise of the crossover SUV has introduced some real parity into the equation, with efficient-yet-sporty offerings steadily gaining market share over their full-size forerunners while offering the type of high-end features and comfort that have been known to lure longtime sedan drivers into the fray. With so many models to choose from, buyers should start by asking themselves what exactly it is they’re looking for in their next vehicle.

If it’s about finding a reliable family SUV with plenty of space and a reputation for reliability, the Kia and Hyundai offerings are worth a second look. If off-road performance is near the top of your list, the Bronco represents an exciting new option. For those who prioritize efficiency, new hybrid options like the CR-V make a compelling case. No matter which model you choose, 2023 looks to be shaping up well in the SUV segment.