The Best and Most Important SUVs of 2018
A new year is upon us, and it’s time we look at the best and worst of things that came our way. 2018 was, without a doubt, the year of the SUV, and there have been more than enough to quench any thirst for them that we may have had. Of course, we’re all journalists here, so we have a slightly different perspective than most people do - you included. With that said, we also get to experience the cream of the crop. We get to know them inside and out, inward and out, top and bottom. For a small period of time, each one of them burrows into our lives like a bad fungal infection that we just can’t shake. And, that’s why we’re here to present you with the best and most important SUVs presented in 2018. If you’re in the market for a new high-riding people hauler, look no further - your next ride is probably on this list.
Michael Fira - Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is what happens when the gorgeous Giulia sedan morphs into a compact luxury SUV. It’s maybe even an important part of the FCA Group’s attempt to revive Alfa Romeo as a brand Stateside. The 184.5-inch-long Stelvio sits on the Giorgio platform and boasts amazing handling characteristics for its class. Couple that with what may be the best-looking exterior of any compact SUV on the market and you’ve got yourself a very interesting package. Yes, some of the materials used inside seem tacky for a model with premium aspirations a base MSRP of $41,995 - about as much as an Audi Q5 or a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class.
But if you buy this car, you're buying it because you love that mythical triangular grille up front and the 276-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, inline-four.
It’s a choice you make with the heart and soul, rather than with your analytical brain that could go for something with more cargo space or better towing ability.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio specifications
|Engine:||2.0-liter, SOHC, chain-driven, Inline-four, turbocharged with 16 valves|
|Output:||276 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 306 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm|
|Suspension:||Double wishbones with a semi-virtual steering axle up front and an Alfa Link design with a vertical rod link at the rear|
|Steering:||Rack and pinion with Variable Electric Assistance|
|Maximum cargo capacity:||56.5 cubic feet|
|Maximum towing capacity:||3,000 pounds|
Read our full review on the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
Andrei Nedelea- Mercedes-Benz GLE
For me, the best SUV of 2018 has to be the new Mercedes GLE and not only because of its bouncy suspension. It looks way better than the outgoing GLE from the outside, with wide haunches and a very planted stance. I think it’s a better-looking thing than BMW’s equally new X5, with its oversized nostrils. Inside, it feels more special too.
The GLE’s interior is absolutely fantastic with great materials nearly everywhere you touch, and you can’t beat the crisp graphics on the obligatory twin 12.3-inch display setup (one does digital dials, the other infotainment).
Its design is also different what you find in a Mercedes sedan, whereas in the BMW X5, the experience is more akin to sitting in a tall 5-Series.
I still have to mention the E-Active Body Control optional feature for the new Airmatic air suspension - it allows for individual control of each wheel (which you can raise or lower via the touchscreen). Another function is the aforementioned ‘bounce’ which actually has a practical purpose of helping the GLE jiggle its way out of tight situations while off-roading.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE specifications
|GLE 350 SUV & GLE 350 4MATIC SUV||GLE 450 4MATIC SUV|
|Engine||2.0L Inline-4 Turbo||3.0L Inline-6 Turbo with EQ Boost|
|Drive Config.||Rear-Wheel Drive /4MATIC All-Wheel Drive||4MATIC fully-variable |
|Horsepower||255 hp @ 5,800 - 6,100||362 hp @ 5,500 – 6,100|
|Torque||273 lb-ft @ 1,800 – 4,000||369 lb-ft @ 1,600 – 4,000|
|EQ Boost||N/A||Up to 21 hp|
Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE.
Safet Satara - Chevy Blazer
Ok, I reckon that the best new SUV of 2018 is the BMW X5. Yet, I won’t be mentioning it here because I think that this should be titled the most important new SUV of 2018. And the most important new SUV of 2018 is the Blazer. At least for the U.S. Yup, I’ve said that the Blazer is more important than the X5, and I will tell you why. While the X5 manages to reach new heights in the world of premium, luxury SUVs, the Chevrolet Blazer is doing something far more important - it gives some proper value to its future buyers that have normal amounts of money, but it also shows us how pampered all of us have become.
Built on top of unibody structure, it only retained the name of proper off-road ready Blazers that came before it, however, I am not mad at it because of that. This only shows that nowadays people make their buying decisions based on the right name at the back. And this one has the right name - the Blazer. And I think it also has the right look. The look of a jacked up Camaro. Yet, it does lack some serious features. There’s no V-8 inside, no crazy capable off-road system, and the most powerful engine seems to be a V-6 with 300ish horsepower. Ok, not bad, but with looks like these, I think that something closer to 380 horsepower would be suited.
Despite its shortcomings, the Blazer has what it needs to be called the most important new SUV of 2018.
It is exceptional on the inside, definitely better looking, and more interesting than any of its counterparts.
It has enough room to pamper all the lazy people that will cover endless miles with it to visit their cousins in far away states, and it has all the connectivity imaginable.
It will sell like hotcakes.
2019 Chevrolet Blazer specifications
|Engine:||2.5-liter, l-4, 193 horsepower, 188 lb-ft. of torque; 3.6-liter, V-6, 305 horsepower, 269 lb-ft. of torque|
|Towing||up to 4,500 lbs. when properly equipped|
|Drive type||AWD available|
Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.
Jonathan Lopez - Volvo XC90
Volvo first introduced the XC90 nameplate for the 2002 model year, but it wasn’t until the second generation and 2015 model year that this SUV truly started to come into its own.
The first thing to grab our eyeballs is the exterior styling.
Volvo’s designers definitely went above and beyond with the XC90’s redesign, and it looks as fresh and sleek today as it did when it first debuted a few years ago.
Up front, the XC90 offers a bold, yet sophisticated fascia, with a polished grille, shapely headlight housings, and an upright stance. The lines leading to the rear along the side panels enhance this, mixing a powerful presence with a sense of refinement that you don’t see that often in the segment. In back, we have the traditional vertical Volvo taillight housings, while the lower trim bits enhance the XC90’s horizontal appeal.
We’re also admittedly smitten by the XC90’s interior space, which features a suave combination of high-end materials that are sure the please anyone with a luxurious itch to scratch. It’s a unique-looking design inside as well, with a vertical infotainment screen in the dash and a simplistic hard button layout. Don’t forget the digital gauge cluster either. Throw in a full complement of the latest tech for safety, convenience, and entertainment, plus seating for up to seven passengers and oodles of cargo room, and there isn’t much to dislike.
However, there’s one last thing to love about the XC90 - the engine packages. It all kicks off with a turbocharged 2.0-liter making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque - solid, but not the most exciting. That is until you to the range-topper, which mounts a twin-charged (turbocharged and supercharged) 2.0-liter hybrid doling out 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque, while still returning upwards of 30 mpg on the highway and offering 19 miles of all-electric range. Awesome.
All told, the Volvo XC90 is definitely one of the best SUVs of 2018.
2018 Volvo XC90 specifications
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, twin-charged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, twin-charged 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid|
|Horsepower:||250 hp at 5,500 rpm, 316 hp at 5,700 rpm, 400 hp at 6,000 rpm|
|Torque:||258 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm, 295 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm, 472 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm|
|Maximum towing capacity:||4,000 lbs, 5,000 lbs|
|Cargo capacity (seats folded down):||80.3 cubic feet|
|Curb weight:||4,327 lbs, 4,623 lbs, 5,105 lbs|
|Suspension:||double wishbone front, multi-link rear|
|Drive type:||Full-time AWD|
Read our full review on the 2018 Volvo XC90.
Ciprian Florea - Jeep Wrangler JL
The all-popular Wrangler returned in 2018 with a familiar face, but with new underpinnings and technology. Although it doesn’t necessarily look more modern than its predecessor, it boasts plenty of upgrades inside the cabin and under the skin. The Pentastar engine isn’t exactly new, but it returns better fuel economy. But the bigger news is that Jeep also offers a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel now, while a hybrid version is set to follow. Talk about variety.
It’s also a better off-road machine than before thanks to better climbing angles, improved tires and wheels, and enhanced transmission and differential. You’ll be treated to a much-improved cabin that retains the old-school vibe but feels modern in terms of materials and design. There’s an updated infotainment system with a bigger screen, a vinyl dashboard, navigation, and even a premium audio system. Best of all, it’s pretty affordable with pricing starting from only $27,945. Granted, the base model is devoid of some of the cool features, but you still get a reliable, spacious SUV that can go almost anywhere.
2018 Jeep Wrangler specifications
|Engine:||3.6-liter V6, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6|
|Power:||260 to 285 horsepower|
|Torque:||260 to 442 pound-feet|
|Gearbox:||six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic|
|Maximum towing capacity:||3,500 pounds|
|Maximum payload capacity:||1,000 pounds|
Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.
Kirby Garlitos -Lincoln Navigator
I’m well aware that this is far from the sexiest pick. I’m also aware that there literally are far sexier new SUVs in the market out there. Jonathan’s right. The Volvo XC90 is completely poster-worthy. That said, my pick for best new SUV in 2018 is this hulking land mass on wheels that happens to be called the Lincoln Navigator. First of all, it qualifies as a new SUV in 2018 because it’s a new-generation model, having only entered production in late 2017.
Semantics aside, the new Navigator has everything you want in a large luxury SUV.
It’s not a sexy SUV by any means, but the exterior has a commanding appearance to it that you can’t help but admire. No one’s going to mistake the Navigator for a run-of-the-mill SUV. Simply mentioning its name is cause for people to stand up and take notice. On the functional side, the Navigator is a stand out in more ways than one. The interior, for example, is awash in plush leather upholstery and wood accents. Dare I say; you’re not going to find a large luxury SUV with a cabin that’s as well-appointed as the Navigator’s interior. Cargo space is far from an issue, either. The Navigator boasts 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 63.6 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 103.3 cubic feet behind the first row. Opt for the long-wheelbase variant, and you get an extra 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
If the Navigator has a flaw, it’s that it’s only available with one engine. That would be a black eye on other SUVs, but the Navigator manages to flick away that notion, largely because the engine that it does carry — a 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 unit — can produce a mighty 450 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Nope, the Navigator isn’t taking a back seat to anyone in its class. As much power as it’s capable of, the Navigator returns good fuel mileage, too, amounting to 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. They’re not best-in-class numbers, but they’re still good numbers for an SUV as big as this Lincoln. Oh, did you know that the Navigator doesn’t require premium gasoline, too? Another feather in the good ‘ol cap, I’d say.
Let’s throw in towing capacity, too.
The Navigator can tow as much as 8,700 pounds when properly equipped.
That’s more weight than most competitors. Through all that, the SUV doesn’t deviate from its identity as a luxury hauler. As big as it is, the Navigator’s ride is comfortable and composed. It swallows up bumps and rough patches, thanks to an adaptive suspension that’s available in some driving modes. The Ford Expedition is its biggest rival, and rightfully so. But if you think Ford’s large SUV has the Navigator by the throat, think again. The Lincoln can definitely hold its own against any rival that comes its way.
2018 Lincoln Navigator specifications
|Engine:||3.5-liter turbocharged V-6|
|Power:||450 horsepower at 5,000 rpm|
|Torque:||500 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm|
|Mileage:||16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway|
|Maximum payload:||16,20 pounds|
|Maximum towing capacity:||8,700 pounds|
|Cargo space:||19.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 63.6 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 103.3 cubic feet behind the first row|
|Drive type:||Rear-wheel drive, All-wheel drive (optional)|
Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.
Sidd Dhimaan - Volkswagen Atlas
An SUV that has everything going for it, but the implementation and execution may have gone a little off. Nevertheless, the Volkswagen Atlas is my pick for many reasons. For starters, the German automaker has finally entered the budget three-row SUV segment. I feel the Atlas is a tad bit late to the party, as almost every brand is enjoying its share of the pie. Generally, three-row SUVs are bulky and are chosen when utility is prioritized over performance. But the Atlas is different and can be driven with utmost ease.
It’s not a vehicle that will make you grin from ear-to-ear, but it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth either.
Unlike many of its competitors, the Atlas actually has a usable third-row and a spacious boot as well. However, the lack of engine options have left me befuddled. The Atlas is a fuel guzzler, and a diesel would have been preferred over the petrol engine. Two petrol engines – a 2.0-liter and a 3.6-liter – are offered, and neither of them gives you the push-you-into-the-seat feel when you floor the pedal. Lack of an all-wheel-drive system makes things worse. But it is not a slouch by any means. In terms of features, it is loaded to the brim in the top variant. All-in-all, the Atlas is a complete package that will tick all your boxes; well, almost all.
2018 Volkswagen Atlas specifications
|Engine:||2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged unit / 3.6-liter, six-cylinder|
|Power:||235 horsepower / 276 horsepower|
|Torque:||258 pound-feet / 266 pound-feet|
|Mileage:||22 mpg - city, 26 mpg – highway / 18 mpg– city, 25 mpg - highway|
|Drive type:||Front-wheel drive|
Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.