3-Row Mid-Sized SUVs For Houston Drivers

Choosing the best 3-row mid-sized SUV in Houston requires considering many factors, like Texas’ diverse topography — ranging from sea level in Houston to nearly 9,000 feet at Guadalupe Peak near the New Mexico border. With quick access to the beaches of Galveston and only a few-hour drive to the most-visited areas in the Lone Star State, Houstonians have their share of options when it comes to hitting the road. 

But before we can cruise out of town we’re faced with Houston’s notoriously-awful traffic, and many of us still have long commutes across town to work. So choosing the right 3-row mid-sized SUV has as much to do with your family’s comfort and safety as it does fuel efficiency. Based on our experience and with some help from our knowledgeable colleagues at Car and Driver, we’ve specifically curated a set of the best 3-row mid-sized SUVs for Houston drivers — so you can pick the one that’s just right for your drive around the Bayou City and beyond.

10. Chevrolet Traverse 

2022 Chevrolet Traverse

Car and Driver

Available with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the Chevrolet Traverse is powered by a capable 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine with a nine-speed transmission; that’s plenty of power to overtake a slow-moving vehicle on Interstate 10 or any of Houston’s busy freeways. With the trailering package, the Traverse can tow up to 5,000 pounds — enough to haul a couple of JetSkis or even a small camper to the lake. Cargo space is ample with 57 cubic feet with the third row folded down and 23 cubic feet with all three rows intact.

The Bottom Line

  • 27 mpg highway
  • Can tow up to 5,000 pounds
  • Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration
  • Starts at $35,095

9. Subaru Ascent

2022 Subaru Ascent

2022 Subaru Ascent

Subaru

Every Subaru, including the three-row Ascent, comes equipped with all-wheel drive. That’s advantageous for driving in all weather conditions, giving you confidence when you’re plowing through slippery stretches of Houston highways. Equipped with Subaru’s 260-hp four-cylinder engine, the Ascent is known to be reliable and dependable, ever-ready for variable terrain. The Ascent’s got the right amount of zip to get this 3-row seat SUV going from a stop, and driver-assist features like forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are standard. Upgrading to the Premium trim adds two useful features: blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert — there’s no such thing as being too careful when navigating through Houston traffic.

The Bottom Line

  • 27 mpg highway
  • All models have all-wheel drive
  • Cargo space with third row folded down is 47 cubic feet and 17 cubic feet with third row intact
  • Starts at $33,970

8. Dodge Durango

2022 Dodge Durango

2022 Dodge Durango

Car and Driver

Big and burly, the Dodge Durango is the SUV equivalent of the brand’s iconic muscle cars and has a roar to match, but the Durango maintains nice fuel efficiency for its size. Powered by three engine options, all Durangos come with a robust eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s especially superior when it comes to towing recreational equipment. With the V6, the powerful SUV can tow up to 6,200 pounds, and upgrading to the V8 gives you the opportunity to tow even more with the optional Tow N Go package. But if your most precious cargo is the large crew you’ve got inside this 3-row SUV, there’s room to comfortably seat seven.

The Bottom Line

  • Up to 23 mpg highway
  • 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard
  • Smart audio controls behind the steering wheel
  • Starts at $39,355

7. Honda Pilot

2022 Honda Pilot

2022 Honda Pilot

Car and Driver

While the Pilot feels a bit like a minivan in the best ways when it comes to comfort, this mid-size SUV has all the practicality of a go-anywhere SUV but with three rows to boot. Powered by a 280-hp V6 engine and a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission, the Pilot gets 26 miles per gallon on highways like Houston’s NASCAR track — er, we mean Beltway 8. Looking for a little pizazz in your family vehicle? Go for the Pilot Special Edition, which includes black 20-inch wheels, sunshades, roof rails, and a sunroof to spice up the outside and wireless charging and leather-trimmed upholstery in the cabin.

The Bottom Line

  • 26 mpg highway
  • 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 46 cubic feet behind the second row
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Starts at $39,375

6. Ford Explorer

2022 Ford Explorer

2022 Ford Explorer

Ford

As well-loved and comfortable as a security blanket, the Ford Explorer fits in everywhere, from the parking lot of Killen’s BBQ in Pearland to the valet at Vic and Anthony’s steakhouse. Step up to at least the Limited variant to get the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, which will play your favorite road trip tunes with enjoyable clarity.  Techies might be interested in the optional 10.1-inch vertically-oriented screen, which requires an upgrade to the top trims. But what’s top of the list when it comes to the best 3-row mid-sized SUVs Houston drivers can find? Fuel efficiency, and with 28 miles per gallon on the highway, it hardly gets better than this.

The Bottom Line

  • 28 mpg highway
  • Three engine options
  • Tows up to 5600 pounds, when properly equipped
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard
  • Starts at $35,505

5. Nissan Pathfinder

2023 Nissan Pathfinder

2023 Nissan Pathfinder

Car and Driver

The first-gen Pathfinder was revealed in 1986 and had a narrow body-on-frame design that shook up the segment. In 2022, the fifth-generation Pathfinder looks much different than it did 40 years ago and includes several improvements too. Consider, for example, that the newest Pathfinder has a whopping 16 cup holders, which may be an overlooked amenity until you’re looking for an extra cup holder and can’t find one. Not only is there ample room for drinks, the new, wider third row seat ensures a comfy ride for as many as eight passengers.

The Bottom Line

  • 26 mpg highway
  • 6,000 pounds of towing capacity, when properly equipped
  • Six-speaker stereo is standard; 13-speaker Bose system is optional
  • Starts at $35,935

4. Mazda CX-9

2022 Mazda CX-9

2022 Mazda CX-9

Car and Driver

Underappreciated as a luxuriously-appointed three-row SUV, the Mazda CX-9 feels more like a wagon than some of its competitors. All-wheel drive is standard, and a generous suite of driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are included starting with the base model. The Mazda CX-9 falls a bit short in towing capacity, but it makes up for brawn with sheer driving pleasure, and there’s little more important than riding comfortably when battling Houston highways at rush hour. Channeling its inner Miata, the CX-9 boasts light steering and agility that eludes most three-row SUVs. 

The Bottom Line

  • 26 mpg highway
  • 6,000 pounds of towing capacity, when properly equipped
  • 14.4 cubic feet behind the third row and 71.2 cubic feet with the third row folded down
  • Starts at $36,855

3. Hyundai Palisade

2022 Hyundai Palisade

2022 Hyundai Palisade

Car and Driver

The Hyundai Palisade may share a platform, powertrain, and suspension with the Kia Telluride, but it feels very different inside and out. While the two are the exact same height at 68.9 inches, the Palisade’s styling seems to suggest the elegant side to the Telluride’s rough-and-tumble attitude. Sporting a European-style push-button gear shifter and clever storage options (like the space under the floating-bridge center console) the Palisade is an SUV you can take to the ranch yet still show clients around town with no trace of embarrassment. And its 10-year warranty makes the Palisade an easy buy for Houston drivers in search of a 3-row SUV without the headache of costly maintenance. 

The Bottom Line

  • Front-wheel-drive: 26 mpg highway
  • All-wheel drive: 24 mpg highway
  • 10-year warranty, 3.8-liter V6 (291 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque)
  • 5,000 pounds of towing capacity, when properly equipped
  • Starts at $34,895

2. Kia Telluride

2023 Kia Telluride

2023 Kia Telluride

Car and Driver

Almost as soon as the Kia Telluride was released for model year 2020, the Korean automaker’s 3-row mid-sized SUV was a hit with Houston drivers. Starting at under $35,000, the Telluride has continued to rock the market with an attractive body style, a well-appointed cabin, and an affordable price point. An impressively-long list of features and off-roading capability comes standard, and road noise is minimal, which makes this SUV an incredible value. Even at the top of the trim line (SX), the difference in cost is less than $10,000, and it is equipped with luxury touches like black 20-inch rims, a premium Harman Kardon stereo, and dual sunroofs.

The Bottom Line

  • 26 mpg highway
  • 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 87 cubic feet with both rows folded down
  • Tows up to 5,000 pounds, when properly equipped
  • Starts at $34,725

1. Jeep Grand Cherokee L 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Car and Driver

Made for long, meandering road trips across Texas and beyond, the completely overhauled Jeep Grand Cherokee is the ultimate comfort vehicle for daily drives around Houston, too. While the Grand Cherokee comes standard with two rows, the Grand Cherokee L has room for up to seven passengers in its three-row design. If you’re the outdoorsy type, the Grand Cherokee L is capable of off-roading on some of the gnarliest roads you can find as you work your way up the trim level and add 4WD options. There’s a significant price difference between the base model and the top-of-the-line Summit Reserve, and luxury touches to match. Warning: spotting this 3-row mid-sized SUV in Houston will cause envy.


The Bottom Line

  • 25 mpg highway
  • Swap out the nine-speaker Alpine audio setup for a high-end 19-speaker McIntosh system 
  • Massaging seats and other niceties available
  • Starts at $43,520

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

 

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