The mid-size luxury SUV segment is where the story of the upscale utility vehicle began around the turn of the millennium with models like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and Acura MDX. Compact and subcompact models have since eclipsed their mid-size siblings in terms of popularity, but mid-sizers remain important as showcases for high-tech features and stepping stones to which drivers of smaller models can move up.
After considering every single vehicle in this segment, our jury of 20 auto industry experts voted on the best ones that they feel raise the bar and are confident recommending to their own family and friends. These five luxury crossovers represent the best of the best and were all finalists for the Best Mid-Size Luxury SUV category in the 2023 AutoTrader Awards.
Genesis continues its winning ways by topping this year’s Mid-Size Luxury SUV category in the 2023 AutoTrader Awards, effectively making this the third year in a row it has earned that honour.
The GV80 was Genesis’ first SUV model and remains its largest vehicle. It’s powered by either a 300-hp, 2.5L turbo four-cylinder engine or a 375-hp, 3.5L turbo V6, both of which come standard with an eight-speed transmission and AWD.
AutoTrader hasn’t reviewed a GV80 since its 2021 debut year, but the strong impressions it made back then are still relevant, as this striking crossover hasn’t changed significantly since its arrival.
AutoTrader’s comparison expert Sami Haj-Assaad pitted the GV80 against the Acura MDX. While he concluded the Acura was a better value, Haj-Assaad said the Genesis made a stronger impression in almost all comparative categories and does a better job at providing an over-the-top luxury experience.
Contributor Jeff Wilson and Road Test Editor Dan Ilika found nothing to fault with the GV80’s value proposition, despite an $85,000 MSRP for the car’s top 3.5T Prestige trim (which has swelled to more than $90,000 in 2023). “By comparison, Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 or BMW X5 M50i could easily stretch into six-figure territory,” wrote Wilson. Also, then as now, Genesis builds its delivery fees into its MSRPs, so you won’t be hit with a $2,000-plus surprise when you buy a GV80.
Wilson and Ilika were both keen on the high level of comfort and long list of features the GV80 Prestige comes with, including massaging front seats, ventilated rear seats, soft-close doors, and a remote parking system that will move the car into or out of a tight spot after you’ve hopped out.
However, no car is perfect: Wilson and Ilika both noted the GV80’s tiny third-row seat; Ilika found his V6-powered tester wasn’t particularly efficient; and Wilson wrote that “the GV80 never escapes its size or mass when asked to hustle around curvy roads.”
2023 Genesis GV80 prices start at $69,000 for the 2.5T Select model. The top 3.5T Prestige trim starts at $91,500, but a matte paint option takes the total to $93,200.
Today’s Porsche Cayenne arrived in North America as a 2019 model, but in typical Porsche style, it has gained new trims and other running changes in the years since then. Notably, a Cayenne Coupe joined the range in 2020 to give Porsche something to compete with the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe models.
One of the other things Porsche does in the years after launching a new generation of any of its vehicles is to add sportier and more powerful variants to keep the design fresh. Among those was 2022’s Turbo GT trim, which vaulted to the top of the Cayenne price range and goes for $209,400 in 2023.
Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai reviewed the Turbo GT in the Cayenne’s coupe body style, and wrote that it “sets the standard for SUVs built by sports car makers” just as brands like Ferrari and Lotus were getting into the SUV marketplace.
Lai had previously driven the “regular” 541-hp Cayenne Turbo and “called it ‘blindingly quick’ and ‘brutally fast,’ not knowing that Porsche planned to somehow improve on that” with the Turbo GT’s 631 hp: “The Turbo GT . . . feels like it has enough brute force to slingshot you into outer space,” she wrote. Lai was also impressed by the handling and roadholding delivered by the Cayenne Turbo GT’s chassis, which makes “this SUV feel like it defies the laws of physics” and “feels smaller and lighter than vehicles half its size.”
And that’s not even the most powerful Cayenne you can get: The Turbo S E-Hybrid puts 670 hp to the ground for about $15,000 less.
Matthew Guy reviewed the less-potent $112,500 Cayenne Coupe E-Hybrid with a mere 455 hp, writing that the car’s ability to reach “highway speeds . . . in a tick over five seconds is . . . enough to stoke the fires of most drivers.” Still, he notes that “this amount of thrust is considered less than elite” in today’s prestige car marketplace.
But Lai couldn’t help but knock what Porsche charges for some optional features that you’d presume would be included in a top-line model, like ventilated seats and some driver safety assists. She writes that “as an SUV (and especially one with a GT badge) . . . comfort and daily livability must still be a consideration.” Matthew Guy took a more positive view of his test car’s value, noting that “the Cayenne Coupe E-Hybrid compares exceedingly well with other one-percenters in terms of performance and built quality.”
2023 Porsche Cayenne pricing starts at $82,900 for the 335-hp base model, and tops out at the Turbo GT Coupe’s aforementioned $209,400.
The Lexus RX has come a long way since its 1999 introduction, when it helped introduce the luxury crossover segment, which has since become one of North America’s most lucrative upscale vehicle categories.
This year, Lexus launched an all-new fifth-generation RX with design and engineering cues intended to expand its already significant appeal, and the upgrades were good enough to land the Ontario-built RX a spot on this year’s list of Best Mid-size Luxury SUV finalists. There are three powertrain options, including RX 500h and 350h hybrids – the former boasting 367 hp – and a gas-only RX 350 with a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Eventually, there will also be a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option.
In his first drive review, Sam McEachern thought the gas-powered RX 350 most ably delivered on Lexus’s promise to turn the redesigned model into the sportiest RX yet, “thanks to the 2.4L engine’s considerable torque, which offers better performance than the on-paper figures would suggest.” In his opinion, however, the new RX was developed to keep existing owners in the Lexus fold, rather than attract new customers.
Jeff Wilson came away with a similar overall impression after he took the wheel of an RX 500h for a week-long test drive review. Initially, he noted that this car’s power figures – 367 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque – don’t tell the whole story.
“Combining the immediacy of the electric motors with a torque turbocharged engine gives the RX 500h a wave of solid energy . . . all the way up through the rev range, providing an urgency not typically associated with Lexus hybrids,” Wilson wrote. However, he said the RX 500h’s performance promise is let down by its numb steering, non-linear brake feel and a general lack of enthusiasm on twisty back roads.
In the end, Wilson said the “500h really shines as a comfortable highway cruiser” and is “a fantastic way to travel vast distances.” His conclusion? “Everything that has made the Lexus RX a popular choice in the past is simply better with the RX 500h.”
The 2023 Lexus RX base prices range from $58,650 in RX 350 trim to $79,800 for the RX 500h.
Launched in 2020 with the help of an appearance in the James Bond movie No Time to Die, the modern Land Rover Defender proves that the retro styling trend is thriving. Its looks are inspired by the brand’s Series I, II and III models sold from the late 1940s through the 1980s and the original Defender that debuted in 1990.
The three-door Defender 90 is this truck’s starting point. The Defender 110 is a four-door configuration, and the 130 builds on it with standard three-row seating. Engine choices include a 296-hp, 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, a mild hybrid turbo V6 with 395 hp, and a 518-hp 5.0L supercharged V8.
Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai tested a 2023 Defender 130 and came away mostly impressed with her $104,000 version of this SUV. She described the Defender’s highway driving feel as “civilized and straightforward,” but also made a challenging off-road course “impossibly easy . . . and made me feel confident . . . that we’d make it to the other side.”
Dustin Woods tested a 2022 Defender 110 with the four-cylinder and found its performance “more than respectable” given the engine’s modest displacement and his tester’s 2,100-plus-kg curb weight, but notes that if you want to tow with your Defender, the six-cylinder engine is rated to haul a lot more.
Lai and Woods were both impressed by the Defender’s well-executed infotainment system, something that’s not a given even in upscale vehicles.
On the negative side, both reviewers criticized the Defender’s fuel economy. Woods saw an average of 14.3 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving, while Lai’s mild-hybrid-powered 130 model averaged 13.0 L/100 km in mostly highway driving.
The Defender 130 also lost some practicality points with Lai for its third-row access, which would benefit from a second row that’s easier to fold out of the way of way-back passengers getting in and out. And the third row doesn’t fold flat, creating a higher lift to get bulky items into the cargo area.
In 2023, Defender pricing starts at $69,000 for the two-door 90 S configuration and tops out at $140,400 for the 110 Carpathian Edition package. In between is the 130 X – the top three-row model – priced at $113,550.
BMW introduced the iX in 2022 as its first-ever all-electric SUV model and one of a fast-growing fleet of mainstream EVs aimed at the brand’s core audience.
At launch, the iX came in a single xDrive50 trim with 516 hp, but the 2023 model year added 322-hp xDrive40 and 532-hp M60 configurations.
Road Test Editor Dan Ilika was smitten by the 2022 iX xDrive50 he tested for its “get-in-and-go simplicity” that belied the car’s futuristic, high-tech makeup and its $112,000 price. It didn’t hurt that his test car came with a compliant air suspension, a massaging driver’s seat, four-zone A/C, and a rear seat that proved “a genuinely pleasant place to spend time.”
Jeff Wilson, who tested the iX M60, conversely found the front seats fall short “of the luxurious comfort found in other BMW models,” and noted that front-seat occupants five feet tall and shorter will hit their heads on the plastic insert in the integrated headrest.
Ilika appreciated the xDrive50’s “peppy” and “instantaneous” torque delivery, which contributes to a claimed 4.5-second sprint to 100 km/h, but found that the iX generally seems to encourage “mellow driving” more than he expected from a 500-hp BMW.
According to Wilson’s assessment, BMW saves the real performance for the M60, whose launch control system proved “about as close as one can get to an extraterrestrial escape pod” with acceleration that challenges that of BMW’s X5 M “without all that machine’s V8 ruckus.” Wilson offers the warning that the iX M60 is “sneaky fast,” and its “smoothness and silence mean the cruising speed is often shocking.” The M60’s substantive output is 532 hp and 749 lb-ft of torque, but launch control unlocks an extra 78 hp and 62 lb-ft.
Ilika’s main complaint was an infotainment system that presented “a fairly steep learning curve” and forced him to manually connect his smartphone every time he got in the car. He also called out the iX’s electric interior door release controls, which “led to plenty of fumbling to find the way out” for first-time passengers.
Wilson wrote that while the current version of BMW’s iDrive system is generally “refreshingly intuitive,” he found the iX’s setup integrates too many functions normally controlled using hard buttons, of which there are few in the iX’s cabin.
BMW’s prices for the 2023 iX start at $79,990 for the 322-hp xDrive40 package, while the top M60 goes for $121,750 with its 532-hp drivetrain.