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Five Best SUVs for Holiday Shopping

The Biggest Boots for your Loot

Dec 7, 2012
The U.S. is the land of more. We don't like being told we can't eat double cheeseburgers seven days a week. We don't like being told we have to drive around in puny little fuel-sipping compacts. And when it comes to holiday shopping, the annual mob stampedes on the ever-earlier Black Friday reliably make headlines for trampling injuries.
What better vehicle to meet our insatiable demand for stuff than the full-size SUV? We've compiled the top five SUVs by cargo capacity, with the most space for your holiday shopping needs. To keep the comparison as fair as possible, we've listed rated cargo volume behind the first and second rows. If stuff hauling is your bigger priority, it's probably a given you've folded or removed the third row, if equipped. But if you're really a mega-shopper, you might want to consider a few of the capacious alternatives we've listed below.

Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL/Cadillac Escalade ESV
Behind Second Row: 90 cu ft
Behind First Row: 137.4 cu ft
Is it any surprise that the GM full-size triplets are the reigning kings of full-size SUV cargo capacity? Until the arrival of megasize Super Duty-based Ford Excursion in 2000, the GM jumbo 'utes were indisputably at the top of the list. Following the Excursion's discontinuation in 2005, GM's big boys are back on top. The price range on these models stretches more than $40,000 from around $43,000 for your basic Suburban LS to more than $86,000 for a full-boat Escalade ESV Platinum AWD. But for stuff-hauling capacity, the country cousin and city slicker are equals.

Ford Expedition EL, Lincoln Navigator L
Behind Second Row: 85.5 cu ft
Behind First Row: 130.8 cu ft
Photo 8/42   |   2012 Ford Expedition Front View
Coming a close second behind the GM long-wheelbase SUVs are Ford's own large and in-charge SUVs, the Ford Expedition EL and Lincoln Navigator L. Although a few cubic feet short of the GM models, they still hold a 10-cubic-foot edge over the next-closest Toyota Sequoia. The price gap from top to bottom is not quite so wide as between the Suburban and Escalade ESV, but still runs the gamut from basic to lavish.

Toyota Sequoia
Behind Second Row: 66.6 cu ft
Behind First Row: 120.1 cu ft
Photo 15/42   |   2012 Toyota Sequoia Side
The Sequoia splits the cargo volume difference between the GM short and long-wheelbase, offering 11 cubic feet more than a Tahoe or Yukon, but 17 less than a Suburban or Yukon XL. And in the land of Wal Mart and Costco, what's better than getting more for less? In this regard, the U.S.-built Sequoia trounces its Japanese cousin, the patrician Land Cruiser by a significant 23 cubic feet behind the second row, and more than 38 behind the first row. The biggest difference? The price. More than $36,000 separate the two models, enough to buy a Tundra, Avalon, or two Tacoma regular cabs to make up for any shortfall in cargo-hauling capacity.

Chevrolet Traverse
Behind Second Row: 70.3 cu ft
Behind First Row: 116.3 cu ft
Photo 22/42   |   2012 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ Front
The Chevrolet Traverse, as well as the other Lambda triplets, deserve honorable mention on this list for being the only non-truck-based models on the list, proving the packaging efficiencies possible in a transverse, front-drive design optimized for maximum practicality. The Traverse is called out because of its slight edge over its corporate siblings in capacity, although the difference can be measured in cubic inches, rather than cubic feet. Any three of the Lambda models, the Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia would be a smart choice for holiday gift-hauling duties.

Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade
Behind Second Row: 60.3 cu ft
Behind First Row: 108.9 cu ft
Photo 26/42   |   2012 Chevrolet Tahoe Front Three Quarters
If your stuff-hauling needs don't quite necessitate the Suburban's 222.4 inches of length, the slightly smaller Tahoe might work for you. Although significantly less capacious than their long-wheelbase cousins, they're still roomy enough to land them on the top five list. Because of the Lambda models' surprising showing in cargo capacity, the standard-wheelbase Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator are bumped off the top-five list by less than a half cubic-foot of maximum capacity by GM's short-wheelbase triplets.

For Comparison:
Ford Excursion
Behind Second Row: 100.7 cu ft
Behind First Row: 146.4 cu ft
Photo 33/42   |   2004 Ford Excursion
Nothing signified the bigger-is-better SUV craze of the early 2000s than Ford's Super Duty based juggernaut, the Excursion. If it were still in production, it would comfortably be at the top of the list. But as demand for ever-larger SUVs subsided, with more customer interest in the emerging crossover class for fuel efficiency and everyday practicality, the Excursion rumbled off into the horizon after the 2005 model year. If you don't mind going the used route, we found several models online with less than 100,000 miles for under $18,000.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Short Wheelbase Standard Roof: 318 cu ft
Short Wheelbase High Roof: 371 cu ft
Long Wheelbase High Roof: 494 cu ft
Long Wheelbase Extended Length High Roof: 547 cu ft
Photo 37/42   |   03 2010 Mercedes Benz Sprinter
If hauling people is not a priority for you, and you want to focus just on maximum cargo capacity, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter puts all the SUVs to shame, whether you're talking about the short-wheelbase, low-roof model, or the long-wheelbase, high-roof model, which boasts a maximum cargo volume of more than 540 cubic feet, or nearly quadruple that of the Suburban. With a thrifty and torquey turbodiesel V-6, the Sprinter lives up to its name, delivering surprisingly sprightly acceleration for such a capable beast of burden.
Tractor Trailer Containers (L x W x H)
28' x 100" x 109": 2029 cu ft
53' x 99" x 110.25": 4050 cu ft
Photo 41/42   |   Great Dane Class 8 Champion Trailer Front
If you really want to supersize your gift giving, you could always pack a big-rig trailer. From a "short" 28-foot trailer to the megasize 53-footer, you're looking at between 2000 and 4000 cubic feet, or about four to eight times that of the biggest Sprinter.
CMA CGM Marco Polo
16,020 TEU, 21,787,200 cu ft
Photo 42/42   |   CMA CGM Marco Polo Cargo Ship
If you do your buying by the ton, chances are you deal in the world of international freight. If it's the biggest or nothing for you, then you might want to call the cargo mavens at French shipping company CMA CGM, owners of the world's largest container ship, the Marco Polo. This beast is so massive, that its capacity is measured in TEUs or 20-foot equivalent units, the standardized cargo shipping container size of 20 feet long by 8 feet high, by 8.6 feet wide. Each TEU represents approximately 1360 cubic feet of shipping volume. Marco Polo can haul over 16,000 of these bad boys, or the equivalent of more than 21.7 million cubic feet. That would be more than 39,600 long-wheelbase, high-roof Sprinters, or more than 5300 53-foot tractor-trailer containers. In Suburban terms, the capacity is even more staggering. You'd have to have more than 158,000 of them to haul away the cargo off the Marco Polo. Or more than the combined sales total of Chevrolet's biggest from 2009-2011.



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