The first two questions you should ask youself when shopping for a new sport utility vehicle (SUV) are: 1) how many folks do you need to haul, and 2) do you need all-wheel-drive (AWD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) capabilities. Five-passenger (two-row) SUVs are typically more fuel-efficient than seven-passenger (three-row) SUVs, while two-wheel-drive (2WD) SUVs are usually better on gas than AWD and 4WD SUVs. Consequently, the vast majority of the best gas mileage SUVs are 2WD, five passenger vehicles.
Out of the crowd of 2WD 2011 seven-passenger SUVs, the Mitsubishi Outlander (23 city / 28 highway), Dodge Journey (19/26), and Ford Explorer (17/25) get the best gas mileage, followed by the Mazda CX-9, Chevrolet Terrain, Buick Enclave, GMC Arcadia, and Ford Flex at 17 city / 24 highway MPGs. The 2WD Ford Explorer takes a significant jump in fuel economy for 2012, with the EcoBoost inline four cylinder version rated at 20/28.
The best gas mileage 2011 AWD 7-passenger SUVs include the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (28/28), Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 4Matic (18/25), Audi Q7 TDI (17/25), and the Dodge Journey (16/24). The GL350 BlueTEc and Q7 TDI clean diesels are exceptionally well-suited to long-distance, with excellent highway mileage and capacious fuel tanks.
We’ve tested the following 7-seat SUVs:
- Audi Q7 TDI – With its powerful clean diesel engine, the luxurious Audi Q7 TDI delivers a unique combination of fuel efficiency, range, driveability, luxury, and towing capacity, along with some of the best in-cabin technology on the market today.
- Chevrolet Traverse – Room for seven and highway gas mileage in the mid-twenties, the Chevy Traverse offers a compelling feature set, with a spacious interior that’s chock full ‘o creature comforts.
- Ford Flex – A brilliant alternative to traditional SUVs and minivans, the Flex represents a rebirth of the great American station wagon with the comforts of a spacious limousine.
- Lincoln MKT EcoBoost – Takes the large luxury crossover to a new level. While it lags behind the European turbo-diesels when it comes to fuel economy, the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine provides a remarkable rush of power. The MKT EcoBoost is an executive jet on wheels, with a luxurious ride for six or seven.
- Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec – Although the ticket to entry is substantial, the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC is one of the most fuel-efficient seven-passenger luxury SUVs on the road today.
- Mitsubishi Outlander – Among the most sporting of the mid-size Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV), with a rally-inspired design that provides real four-wheel-drive, and magnesium paddle shifters. The third row seating is strictly for the kids.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid – Plays a trump card in the sport utility market, by delivering the best gas mileage in its class.
– by Daniel Gray