5 Best Seven-Passenger Tow Vehicles of 2014

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Category: DriveApart

Background photo by The AutoMotovated Cyclist

One of the fastest-growing segments of the automotive industry is the seven-passenger SUV. Even though the third row seems to go unused 90% of the time, people like the idea of capability, and they're more likely to buy a vehicle that serves the extreme ends of their needs, rather than settle for a vehicle that just meets the vast majority of their needs. That's what makes America great.

Let's assume, though, that you're a motorcyclist who actually does need that third row. You have a big family, or you and your friends like to load up a trailer full of dirt bikes and head for the hills. Good for you.

Each vehicle on this list is capable of towing at least 3,500 lbs as equipped, and can carry a payload of at least 1,200 lbs. In order to qualify as "Best," the vehicles must have a combination of capability, value, power, efficiency, comfort and driveability both while towing a load and when not.

Why five best? With seven passengers in each vehicle, you can round up 35 people and get them from point A to point B in a hurry. That's a party, and that's enough for us.

2014 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ 4WD
2014 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ 4WD

2014 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ 4WD

Engine: 5.3-Liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower: 320 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 325 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Max Towing (as equipped): 8,000 lbs
Max Payload (as equipped): 1,576 lbs
Cargo Capacity (behind 1st row/behind 2nd row/behind 3rd row):
137.4 cu.-ft. / 90.0 cu.-ft. / 45.8 cu.-ft.

MSRP: $61,400

Suburban is coming up for a makeover in 2015, but for 2014 the big people hauler chugs along with a surprising level of comfort and ease. It has more room behind the third row than many SUVs have behind the second row.

2014 Ford Explorer Sport EcoBoost V6 4WD
2014 Ford Explorer Sport EcoBoost V6 4WD

2014 Ford Explorer Sport EcoBoost V6 4WD

Engine: 3.5-Liter EcoBoost V6
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower: 365 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway
Max Towing (as equipped): 5,000 lbs
Max Payload (as equipped): N/A
Cargo Capacity (behind 1st row/behind 2nd row/behind 3rd row):
80.7 cu.-ft./ 43.8 cu.-ft./ 21.0 cu.-ft.

MSRP: $40,780

The turbocharged Explorer Sport is the sleeper in this group, and with standard trailer sway control, it is a safe and capable towing option. Plus, this one is fun to drive without a trailer, too.

2014 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD
2014 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD

2014 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD

Engine: 6.2-Liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower: 403 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,300 rpm
Fuel Economy: 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway
Max Towing (as equipped): 8,100 lbs
Max Payload (as equipped): 1,612 lbs
Cargo Capacity (behind 1st row/behind 2nd row/behind 3rd row):
108.9 cu.-ft. / 60.3 cu.-ft. / 16.9 cu.-ft.

MSRP: $62,310

"Bling" may not be a word that is still in your vocabulary, but that doesn't stop the Yukon Denali from sporting its share. With a great big V8 under the hood, the Denali can back up that swagger, too.

2014 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD
2014 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD

2014 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD

Engine: 3.5-Liter V6
Transmission: 5-speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower: 250 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 253 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway
Max Towing (as equipped): 4,500 lbs
Max Payload (as equipped): N/A
Cargo Capacity (behind 1st row/behind 2nd row/behind 3rd row):
87.0 cu.-ft. / 47.7 cu.-ft. / 18.0 cu.-ft.

MSRP: $41,420

Pilot is the surprise vehicle in this group, mostly because it is surprisingly refined, capable and good-looking for a vehicle that never seems to get any attention – even in Honda's advertising. Don't overlook it.

2014 Toyota Highlander V6 Limited Platinum AWD
2014 Toyota Highlander V6 Limited Platinum AWD

2014 Toyota Highlander V6 Limited Platinum AWD

Engine: 3.5-Liter V6
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower: 270 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway
Max Towing (as equipped): 5,000 lbs
Max Payload (as equipped): 1,492
Cargo Capacity (behind 1st row/behind 2nd row/behind 3rd row):
83.2 cu.-ft./ 42.3 cu.-ft. / 13.8 cu.-ft.

MSRP: $43,590

Highlander is all-new for 2014, and the third-gen vehicle is much better-looking inside and out than the outgoing, bulbous hulk. Third row access and comfort is better than before – and it is actually usable for adults under 6' tall.

What is your pick for best 2014 seven-passenger tow vehicle?

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