2014 SUV Buying Guide

The 2014 SUV Buying Guide from CarPreview.com highlights the shrinking assortment of truck-based SUVs engineered for active families and outdoor enthusiasts. These old-school SUVs run the gamut from the compact Jeep Wrangler, to midsizers like the Toyota 4Runner, to posh and pricey full-size trucks like the Cadillac Escalade.

This segment was the auto industry’s darling throughout the 1990s as families abandoned station wagons and minivans for the rugged image of an SUV. They found themselves driving passenger-wagon bodies bolted to a truck frame – because that’s what an SUV was at the time. Few owners used the towing, hauling, and off-road capabilities of their vehicles but suffered the low fuel economy and leaden handling that came with that heavy-duty engineering. Improved mileage, comfort, and road manners arrived with the crossover SUV, basically a tall-riding wagon with car-type unibody engineering and all-wheel drive. Crossovers dominate today’s SUV market, and we cover the mainstream models in our CarPreview.com 2014 Crossover SUV Buying Guide; and the upscale variants in the CarPreview 2014 Luxury SUV Buying Guide.

The SUVs reviewed here are body-on-frame holdouts capable of pulling heavy trailers. Most have big V-8 engines and are based on rear-wheel-drive platforms with standard or available four-wheel drive that includes low-range gearing for serious off-roading. (Crossovers are typically based on front-drive architecture and rely on all-wheel drive for extra traction on wet or snowy roads.) The 16 entries in our 2014 SUV Buying Guide range in horsepower from 260 to 536, in fuel-economy ratings from 13 to 19 mpg city/highway combined, and in base price from $23,390 to $136,625. (Base prices listed here don’t include optional equipment but do include manufacturer destination fees, which average around $1,000.)

Here is our 2014 Sport-Utility Vehicle Buying Guide:

2014 Cadillac Escalade/Escalade ESV

2014 Cadillac Escalade Platinum

Long the King of Bling, the full-size Escalade luxury SUV and its stretched companion the Escalade ESV continue for a brief 2014 model year before being replaced by redesigned versions as early 2015 entries. The Escalade and Escalade ESV remain posher and more chrome-laden alternatives to the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban with which they share platforms and powertrains. Both come with three rows of seats, but there’s more rear legroom and cargo space in the longer ESV. It comes adequately powered by a 6.2-liter 403-horsepower V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. While either version handles decently and delivers a smooth ride, they can be a handful around town and prove difficult to parallel park in tight urban environments, and can become bouncy over stretches of broken pavement. The updated 2015 versions feature more refined exterior styling, handsomely re-crafted interiors, and new connectivity and accident-avoidance features. They pack a new 6.2-liter V-8 engine and offer Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control that reacts instantaneously according to road and driving conditions to help maintain a refined ride while maximizing the vehicle’s handling abilities. Fuel-economy ratings for the 2014 versions span 14-16 mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $68,965-$86,665. Prices and fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 models were not announced as of this writing.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

2015 Chevrolet Suburban in Champagne side view from New York rev

Chevy’s largest—and oldest—SUV is redesigned for the 2015 model-year and will be released during the first quarter of 2014. As before it’s a longer version of the Tahoe with added third-row legroom and behind-the-seats cargo capacity, and is likewise based on the Silverado pickup truck. It receives a fresh exterior appearance and a plusher and roomier interior along with assorted engineering updates and technology upgrades. It features a direct-injected 5.3-liter 355 horsepower V-8 engine with active cylinder deactivation that lets the truck run on four cylinders at cruising speeds to help save fuel. It drives either the rear or all four wheels (with 4WD) via a six-speed automatic transmission. New features include the MyLink infotainment system with smartphone connectivity and both touchscreen and voice-activated commands, and many of the latest accident avoidance systems. In the meantime, those who can make do with the still capable 2014 version should be able to avail themselves of deep discounts and generous cash rebates. The 2014 version is rated at 17-mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $47,295-$62,395. Prices and fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 models were not announced as of this writing.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe

2015 GMC Tahoe

A revamped version of this capable and comfortable full-size SUV debuts in the first quarter of 2014 as an early 2015 model and again shares platforms, powertrains, features, and accommodations with the longer Chevy Suburban; both are, in turn, based on the Silverado pickup that was itself redesigned for 2014. Its standard 5.3-liter V-8 engine is more powerful than before with 355 horses, and it comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The V-8 can shut down half its cylinders when not otherwise needed to help save gas, but this big and heavy truck is still engineered more for performance than economy, with a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 pounds when properly equipped. New features include the MyLink infotainment system, along with forward collision alert, lane departure warning, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control for added safety. In the meantime, the outgoing 2014 versions should be offered with significant factory incentives and be offered at deep discounts. The 2014 version is rated at 17-mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $44,595-$60,355. Prices and fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 models were not announced as of this writing.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]