When a small all-wheel-drive SUV is too small and a behemoth AWD SUV is just too much, it's time to seek the middle path. In other words, you want an SUV that delivers more interior room and cargo capacity than a smaller model but isn't quite as large and unwieldy as a full-size SUV. Enter the midsize AWD SUV.
The 12 Best All-Wheel-Drive Midsize SUVs Under $35,000
Carmakers take different approaches to how their all-wheel-drive systems work. Subaru's system delivers continuous power to all four wheels and provides optimal balance under a variety of conditions. The all-wheel-drive systems from Ford, Honda and many other automakers put the power to the front wheels under normal conditions. But as soon as sensors determine that a rear wheel is about to slip, these systems deliver the power where it's needed.
Here, listed alphabetically, are a dozen 2017 midsize AWD SUVs that rate highly with us. All of them have a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of less than $35,000 (before destination charges), and some are well below that figure. As you shop, you will likely find better prices than those shown here, particularly if incentives are available. Another money-saving option is to check for Edmunds special offers on these cars.
With room for up to eight passengers with plenty of cargo space remaining behind the third row of seats, the 2017 Chevrolet Traverse will appeal to shoppers seeking an all-around hauler in a reasonably sized package. It might not be as up to date in design and technology as some of its rivals, but the Traverse remains a capable, well-equipped SUV with a comfortable ride, adequate power and a long list of available packages. The 2017 Chevrolet Traverse has one available engine, a 3.6-liter V6. It's EPA-rated at 17 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway). Starting MSRP: $34,195.
Sized a bit above the typical midsize SUV, the 2017 Dodge Durango might be just the ticket for buyers who need a lot of room for passengers and cargo without incurring the bulk of a full-size model. Many three-row SUVs short-change passengers in the last row, but the Durango gives them plenty of room to stretch out. It also supplies a decent amount of space for cargo. Although the current-generation Durango has been around since 2011, its muscular styling holds up well, and it's been updated with an improved interior and some of the latest technology. The 2017 Dodge Durango with the standard V6 engine is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). Starting MSRP: $32,595.
The five-passenger 2017 Ford Edge splits the difference between compact and midsize SUVs. As a result, it delivers a more carlike ride than some of its larger competitors while still offering the advantages of a spacious interior and a good amount of cargo capacity. Modern, fuel-efficient and comfortable, the Edge boasts such standard features as a rearview camera and Ford's latest Sync 3 infotainment system, which includes voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity. The base turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers decent passing power, but buyers seeking quicker acceleration might want to consider the optional V6. Equipped with the standard engine, the 2017 Ford Edge is EPA-rated at 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway). Choosing the V6 will lower those figures by several mpg. Starting MSRP: $30,445.
If you're shopping for a stylish and versatile three-row midsize SUV, the 2017 Ford Explorer is definitely worth a look. Quiet and comfortable on the highway, the Explorer surrounds occupants with quality materials, soft surfaces and a reasonable number of standard convenience and tech features, such as a rearview camera, cruise control, rear climate control and Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system. There's also a wealth of trim levels and packages available for buyers who want to personalize their vehicle. Three engines are offered, beginning with the base 3.5-liter V6, which the EPA rates at 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). Starting MSRP: $33,810.
A tad above our target MSRP but worth a look, the all-new 2017 GMC Acadia is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, yet it can seat seven passengers in three rows of seats. Cargo space is a bit compromised, however. Rounded corners and a more raked windshield give the new Acadia a sleeker, more aerodynamic appearance, but it still retains some of the blocky, muscular looks that sets it apart from the competition. A 194-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine is standard. It's a bit anemic for a vehicle of this size, so most buyers will likely opt for the 310-hp V6. With the four-cylinder engine, the Acadia is EPA-rated at 23 mpg combined (21 city/25 highway), while the V6 drops the rating to 20 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). Starting MSRP: $35,375.
With a standard V6 engine and seating for up to eight in a neatly packaged, attractive design, the 2017 Honda Pilot will appeal to a wide range of shoppers. Its ample power, excellent handling and smooth ride make it an ideal cross-country tourer, but it's equally happy running errands, towing a trailer or even doing a bit of light off-roading. You'll find quality materials in the interior, a wealth of standard features, abundant storage space and a host of advanced safety and technology items. The 2017 Honda Pilot with its standard engine and six-speed automatic transmission is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway), but adding the optional nine-speed automatic gearbox will net about a 1 mpg increase. Starting MSRP: $32,395.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe offers an enticing blend of performance, comfort, style, three-row seating and the best warranty in the business. And with standard equipment such as alloy wheels, LED running lights, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio, it's also a bargain that SUV shoppers will surely appreciate. The interior of even the base model includes quality materials, an attractive design and a good amount of room throughout. On the road, the Santa Fe's comfortable ride and solid feel make it drive like one of its more expensive competitors. The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe with its standard V6 engine is EPA-rated at 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway). Starting MSRP: $33,445.
An impressive blend of off-road ability, decent highway manners and around-town maneuverability give the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee appeal for shoppers who want an upscale midsize SUV. The comfortable interior of even the base Laredo model is well-designed, with plenty of room for passengers and cargo. Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, an infotainment center with Bluetooth connectivity and a 5-inch touchscreen. So even though the Grand Cherokee's roots go back to its military and farm-implement ancestors, the new models offer decidedly upscale touches. With the standard V6 engine, the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee achieves an EPA rating of 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). Starting MSRP: $32,695.
The 2017 Kia Sorento has value, a host of amenities, the choice of five- or seven-passenger seating and a great warranty, making it a midsize SUV that's definitely worth a test drive. In something that's unusual for the segment, Kia offers three engine choices for the Sorento, ranging from 185 to 290 horsepower, all with a six-speed automatic transmission. The interior, though smaller than those of most three-row SUVs, features high-quality, soft materials and gives the impression of being in a much pricier vehicle. Buyers also can add upgrades such as leather upholstery and an abundance of technology. The 2017 Kia Sorento with the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg combined (21 city/25 highway), but choosing the V6 option will drop the combined rating by 3 mpg. Starting MSRP: $28,700.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander actually slots between the compact and midsize SUV market segments, but it makes this list by virtue of its third-row seat and appeal to shoppers hoping to get into an AWD SUV at a low base price. Available in four trim levels, the Outlander can serve as a fairly well-equipped entry-level model, or it can be spruced up to near-luxury level and outfitted with a V6 engine that gives it a bit more acceleration and improved highway performance. The EPA rates the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander with its standard four-cylinder engine at 26 mpg combined (24 city/29 highway) and the optional V6 at 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway). Starting MSRP: $24,995.
Avant garde styling may be the first thing that jumps out when you first lay eyes on the 2017 Nissan Murano, but underneath the unique bodywork is a highly capable, well-equipped midsize crossover that seats five comfortably. Interior materials are top-notch, and upper trim levels provide luxury that's on a par with Nissan's upscale Infiniti nameplate. And although the Murano isn't optimized for off-road work or towing heavy loads, it stands out as a versatile vehicle for families, in town or on the road. Powered by its standard V6 engine, the 2017 Nissan Murano is EPA-rated at 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway). Starting MSRP: $31,370.
The 2017 Subaru Forester boasts many quintessential SUV traits, such as a high seating position, roomy interior and usable cargo space. But it also has standard all-wheel drive, an available turbocharged engine and generous ground clearance, making it an ideal choice for adventure-seeking buyers. Updated for 2017 with numerous improvements — including wider feature availability, additional noise insulation and quicker steering response — the Forester nevertheless retains its core values of affordability, reliability and rugged practicality. The base 2017 Subaru Forester with the standard four-cylinder engine and manual transmission is EPA-rated at 24 mpg combined (22 city/28 highway), although the optional automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) boosts the rating to 28 mpg combined (26 city/32 highway). Starting MSRP: $22,595.